We’ve Discovered White People!
the first communique from the occupation of Saint Louis University
Five hundred twenty two years ago, the great Christopher Columbus discovered a New World. Monday, on the day we all celebrated the daring achievements of that fearless explorer, we too discovered a new world: the world of white people.
Having spent the last 65 days protesting the police murder of Michael Brown;
having been beaten, shot at, tear gassed, ridiculed, and smeared since the death of our brother;
having been treated as criminals and problems and sub-human beings under police occupation our whole lives;
having been told – explicitly and implicitly, with fearful faces on the street and with police guns pointed at us – that our lives are worthless in the eyes of this society that claims to have achieved justice for all;
having undergone all these abuses and more in our Old Word, we decided to venture forth in search of a New World of our own.
And we have found it. We have discovered the world of White people. They call this settlement “Saint Louis University,” or sloo in their informal tongue.
The first thing to note about the world of White people is that the police are friendly and they pretty much let you do whatever you want as long as nobody is actually getting physically injured. Strangely, they do hang out behind the trees and take pictures of you, but whenever they ride by on their bicycles they have big smiles on their faces and say obvious things about the weather.
The second thing to note about White people is that most of them – those who’ve greeted us, anyway – are very friendly. They are curious and concerned about the world we come from, and seem genuine about wanting to help us escape the brutal police state, which locks us up in cages, which kills us with impunity, which terrorizes us every day of our lives because of the color of our skin. We appreciate their smiles and claps and support. But. We are reminded of bed time stories our families told us about a strange people called “White Liberals.” According to the stories, these people are split in half on the inside, and will support you with their words but never their actions. They also will only like you if you pretend to be like them, and will stop supporting you even with their words if your anger disrupts their busy schedule. We wonder if we haven’t met a lot of them since our arrival.
But not all of the White natives we have met are friendly. What is so strange about them, though, is that they don’t seem to notice that they are being unfriendly. In fact, they often insist that they are being friendly and treating us with respect, even as they dismiss our accounts of the world we come from, a world they’ve never been to.
Since our arrival, we’ve identified two main ways in which the Whites that are not friendly express their unfriendliness without knowing it:
First, they seem to insist that the destruction of property is somehow comparable to the murder of a human being with brown skin. In fact, they seem to believe that the protection of property is more important than the protection of our people from injury or death.
After our brother Michael Brown was shot dead with his hands up in the air by Officer Darren Wilson and Mike Mike’s body was left to rot in the street for four and a half hours in front of our people – our children, our mothers, all of us – we were angry. We were filled with rage at our situation. The media and politicians then suggested that Mike Mike’s murder was somehow justified by his having taken some cigars from a store without giving the store pieces of magic paper. This angered us more. Some of our brothers and sisters were so angry that they set the store on fire and took all the things they wanted, without any respect for the magic paper that our oppressors are always telling us is so important.
The White people who keep telling us these actions are “just as bad,” or even that they are in any way comparable to the ending of a human life of beauty and value beyond measure, are telling us (maybe without knowing it) that we are lower in value than dead things, that we are mere objects. When they do this, it makes us feel deeply hurt. And it makes us wonder if they even know what it means to love another human being.
The second way the White people that we have discovered are unfriendly to us without seeming to notice has to do with their fetish, a flag with stars and stripes on it. To our surprise, it is the same exact fetish that our oppressors have hanging in the Sacrifice Halls where they tell us how long we have to spend in their cages. In our rebellion against them after yet another one of our brothers, VonDerrit Myers, was murdered by another police officer whose name we do not know, some of our brothers turned our oppressor’s fetish upside down. Some even set it on fire. When we discovered this New World inhabited by Whites, we claimed it for our own just as the great Columbus did, and we planted an upside down version of the fetish in this new, undiscovered soil, as a sign of our freedom. But some of the native Whites of sloo were very upset by this, because for them the fetish was a symbol of all that was good in the world, and because, they said, their family members had fought and died for the fetish. After a very long and tense discussion, it became clear that this White tribe was prone to mistaking the symbol for the things it is supposed to symbolize. They insisted that it was the flag that their ancestors fought and died for and not their families and homes (which, of course, would have been just fine without a flag to symbolize them). Through this discussion, it seemed that we learned what we already knew: that we were from different worlds, and being from different worlds, the same piece of fabric can mean completely opposite things.
Still, we think these unfriendly Whites were so upset about something much deeper and much more serious than their fetish. We think that they thought we were accusing them, as individuals who cared about their flag, of being guilty of all the oppression we experience in our world. When we spoke about how privileged they are to live in this beautiful place where the police smile at them and say really stupid things about the weather, they thought that we were blaming them for what we suffer. We want to tell those Whites, from the bottom of our deep hearts, that this is not what we mean. They, as individuals, did not create the world we have suffered in, the world where we fear for our lives every day. They are not guilty. It is not their fault that we live in a society where Black lives don’t matter. As individual Whites who love their fetish, they are not to blame for their privilege.
But nonetheless they need to understand that it exists, and they need to ask themselves how they are going to use it. And the Whites we met have two options: either they will use that privilege to help us dismantle the oppression that our people continue to live under, or they will continue to reproduce the world as it is.
Because we are discovering this New World is actually not a New World at all. It is the same world, kept separated from itself by misunderstanding, an inability to feel for one another, and – most importantly – people with uniforms and guns who make sure this one world continues to feel like two.
But here at sloo, a passage is opening.
We encourage others to join us or, better, to immediately start using your bodies to open passages of your own.
For Michael Brown, VonDerrit Myers, John Crawford, and all the Black men whose lives were and will be stolen by police,
Some anonymous participants in #OccupySLU