with Janee Woods

Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder

Michael Brown

As we all know by now, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenage boy, was gunned down by the police while walking to his grandmother’s house in the middle of the afternoon. For the past few days my Facebook newsfeed has been full of stories about the incidents unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri.

But then I realized something.

For the first couple of days, almost all of the status updates expressing anger and grief about yet another extrajudicial killing of an unarmed black boy, the news articles about the militarized police altercations with community members and the horrifying pictures of his dead body on the city concrete were posted by people of color. Outpourings of rage and demands for justice were voiced by black people, Latinos, Asian Americans, Arab American Muslims. But posts by white people were few at first and those that I saw were posted mostly by my white activist or academic friends who are committed to putting themselves on the frontlines of any conversation about racial or economic injustice in America. And almost nothing, silence practically, by the majority of my nonactivist, nonacademic white friends- those same people who gleefully jumped on the bandwagon to dump buckets of ice over their heads to raise money for ALS and those same people who immediately wrote heartfelt messages about reaching out to loved ones suffering from depression following the suicide of the extraordinary Robin Williams, may he rest in peace. But an unarmed black teenager minding his own business walking down the street in broad daylight gets harassed and murdered by a white police officer and those same people seem to have nothing urgent to say about pervasive, systemic, deadly racism in America?

They have nothing to say?

Why? The simplest explanation is because Facebook is, well, Facebook. It’s not the New York Times or a town hall meeting or the current events class at your high school. It’s the internet playground for sharing cat videos, cheeky status updates about the joys and tribulations of living with toddlers, and humble bragging about your fabulous European vacation. Some people don’t think Facebook is the forum for serious conversations. Okay, that’s fine if you fall into that category and your wall is nothing but rainbows and happy talk about how much you love your life.

However, I think the explanation is more complex and mirrors the silence of many people that I witness in real life. A lot of white people aren’t speaking out publicly against the killing of Michael Brown because they don’t see a space for themselves to engage meaningfully in the conversation so that they can move to action against racism. It’s not so much that they have nothing to say but rather they don’t see an opportunity being opened up for them to say something or to do something that matters. Or they might not be sure what to say or how to do it. They might have a hard time seeing a role for themselves in the fight against racism because they aren’t racist, they don’t feel that racism affects them or their loved ones personally, they worry that talking about race and differences between cultures might make things worse, or they think they rarely see overt racism at play in their everyday lives. And, sometimes, they are afraid. There’s a real fear of saying the wrong thing even if the intention is pure, of being alienated socially and economically from other white people for standing in solidarity with black people, or of putting one’s self in harm’s way, whether the harm be physical or psychological.  I’m not saying those aren’t valid fears but I am challenging white people to consider carefully whether failing to speak out or act because of those fears is justified when white silence and inaction mean the oppression and death of black people.

Let’s talk about an active role for white people in the fight against racism because racism burdens all of us and is destroying our communities. And, quite frankly, because white people have a role in undoing racism because white people created and, for the most part, currently maintain (whether they want to or not) the racist system that benefits white people to the detriment of people of color. My white friends who’ve spoken out harshly against the murder of Michael Brown end with a similar refrain: What can I do that will matter in the fight against racism?

White people who are sick and tired of racism should work hard to become white allies.

In the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown, may he rest in power, here are some ways for white people to become white allies who are engaged thoughtfully and critically in examining the situation in Ferguson and standing on the side of justice and equity. This list is a good place to start your fight to dismantle racial inequity and shine a light on the oppressive structures that lead to yet another extrajudicial killing of a black person.

1. Learn about the racialized history of Ferguson and how it reflects the racialized history of America.  Michael Brown’s murder is not a social anomaly or statistical outlier. It is the direct product of deadly tensions born from decades of housing discrimination, white flight, intergenerational poverty and racial profiling. The militarized police response to peaceful assembly by the people mirrors what happened in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement.

2. Reject the “He Was a Good Kid” narrative and lift up the “Black Lives Matter” narrative. Michael Brown was a good kid, by accounts of those who knew him during his short life. But that’s not why his death is tragic. His death isn’t tragic because he was a sweet kid on his way to college next week. His death is tragic because he was a human being and his life mattered. The Good Kid narrative might provoke some sympathy but what it really does is support the lie that as a rule black people, black men in particular, have a norm of violence or criminal behavior. The Good Kid narrative says that this kid didn’t deserve to die because his goodness was the exception to the rule. This is wrong. This kid didn’t deserve to die because he was a human being and black lives matter.

3. Use words that speak the truth about the disempowerment, oppression, disinvestment and racism that are rampant in our communities.  Be mindful, political and socially aware with your language. Notice how the mainstream news outlets are using words like riot and looting to describe the uprising in Ferguson.  What’s happening is not a riot. The people are protesting and engaging in a justified rebellion. They have a righteous anger and are revolting against the police who have terrorized them for years.

4. Understand the modern forms of race oppression and slavery and how they are intertwined with policing, the courts and the prison industrial complex.  We don’t enslave black people on the plantation cotton fields anymore. Now we lock them up in for profit prisons at disproportionate rates and for longer sentences for the same crimes than white people. And when they are released, they are second class citizens stripped of voting rights and denied access to housing, employment and education.  Mass incarceration is The New Jim Crow.

5. Examine the interplay between poverty and racial equity. The twin pillar of racism is economic injustice but do not use class issues to trump race issues and avoid the racism conversation. While racism and class oppression are tangled together in this country, the fact remains that the number one predictor of prosperity and access to opportunity is race.

6. Diversify your media. Be intentional about looking for and paying close attention to diverse voices of color on the tv, on the internet and on the radio to help shape your awareness, understanding and thinking about political, economic and social issues. Check out Colorlines, The Root or This Week in Blackness to get started.

7. Adhere to the philosophy of nonviolence as you resist racism and oppression. Dr. Martin Luther King advocated for nonviolent conflict reconciliation as the primary strategy of the Civil Rights Movement and the charge of His Final Marching Orders.  East Point Peace Academy offers online resources and in person training on nonviolence that is accessible to all people regardless of ability to pay.

8. Find support from fellow white allies. Challenge and encourage each other to dig deeper, even when it hurts and especially when you feel confused and angry and sad and hopeless, so that you can be more authentic in your shared journey with people of color to uphold and protect principles of antiracism and equity in our society.  Go to workshops like Training for Change’s Whites Confronting Racism or European Dissent by The People’s Institute.  Attend The White Privilege Conference or the Facing Race conference. Some organizations offer scholarships or reduced fees to help people attend if funding is an issue.

9. If you are a person of faith, look to your scriptures or holy texts for guidance. Seek out faith based organizations like Sojourners and follow faith leaders that incorporate social justice into their ministry. Ask your clergy person to address antiracism in their sermons and teachings. If you are not a person of faith, learn how the world’s religions view social justice issues so that when you have opportunity to invite people of faith to also become white allies, you can talk with them meaningfully about why being a white ally is supported by their spiritual beliefs.

10. Don’t be afraid to be unpopular. Let’s be realistic. If you start calling out all the racism you witness (and it will be a lot once you know what you’re looking at) some people might not want to hang out with you as much. That’s a risk you’ll need to accept. But think about it like this: staying silent when you witness oppression is the same as supporting oppression. So you can be the popular person who stands with the oppressor or you can be the (maybe) unpopular person who stands for equality and dignity for all people. Which person would you prefer to be? And honestly, if some people don’t want to hang out with you anymore once you show yourself as a white ally then why would you even want to be friends with them anyway? They’re probably racists.

11. Be proactive in your own community. As a white ally, you are not limited to being reactionary and only rising up to stand on the side of justice when black people are being subjected to violence very visibly and publicly. Moments of crisis do not need to be the catalyst because taking action against systemic racism is always appropriate because systemic racism permeates nearly every institution and community in this country. Some ideas for action: organize a community conversation about the state of police-community relations* in your neighborhood, support leaders of color by donating your time or money to their campaigns or causes, ask the local library to host a showing and discussion group about the documentary RACE – The Power of an Illusion, attend workshops to learn how to transform conflict into opportunity for dialogue. Gather together diverse white allies that represent the diversity of backgrounds in your community. Antiracism is not a liberals only cause. Antiracism is a movement for all people, whether they be conservative, progressive, rich, poor, urban or rural.

12. Don’t give up. We’re 400 years into this racist system and it’s going to take a long, long, long time to dismantle these atrocities. The antiracism movement is a struggle for generations, not simply the hot button issue of the moment. Transformation of a broken system doesn’t happen quickly or easily. You may not see or feel the positive impact of your white allyship in the next month, the next year, the next decade or even your lifetime. But don’t ever stop. Being a white ally matters because your thoughts, deeds and actions will be part of what turns the tide someday. Change starts with the individual.

This is a list of just 12 ways to be an ally. There are many more ways and I invite you to consider what else you can do to become a strong and loyal white ally. People of color, black people especially, cannot and should not shoulder the burden for dismantling the racist, white supremacist system that devalues and criminalizes black life without the all in support, blood, sweat and tears of white people. If you are not already a white ally, now is the time to become one.

People are literally dying.

Black people are dying and it’s not your personal fault that black people are dying because you’re white but if you don’t make a purposeful choice to become a white ally and actively work to dismantle the racist system running America for the benefit of white people then it becomes your shame because you are white and black lives matter. And if you live your whole life and then die without making a purposeful choice to become a white ally then American racism becomes your legacy.

The choice is yours.


*Disclosure: I work at this organization but the views expressed in this piece are my own and not necessarily those of the organization.

345 comments on “Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder

  1. Yeek
    August 22, 2014

    I’m coming to this late, but I wanted to add one additional perspective. I can’t speak for other white people, but one reason I did not immediately choose a side in this particular case is that I thought: what if this tragic story is full of lies? If the cop shot an unarmed kid in the back and on the ground with his hands up, it’s an unspeakable abuse of power. If Michael Brown punched the cop in the face and then rushed him, I just don’t see the officer’s reaction as abusive. Those facts really matter to me. The problem is that there is an intersection of a huge wave of cultural dissatisfaction with a particular case – but before we can use that case as an incarnation of a systemic problem, the facts have to line up. From various other cases, I have learned that sometimes people are so desperate to believe a story that exemplifies their grievances that they will promote a smaller injustice to achieve what they see as a larger one.

    • whatsyourassumption
      August 22, 2014

      I do think that’s a common theme in white responses I have seen. And as a white person who strives to be an anti-racist ally (because I believe it is a lifelong journey that you have to constantly work at) I have been trying to figure out the angles of it. Upholding systemic racism is a part of what we breathe and so we have to examine the responses we have carefully if we want to work against being a part of that. First off, obviously the media is encourages that response by constantly preferencing the cops point of view- so her points about what media we are exposing ourselves to are incredibly important. And that response holds us back from being effective allies. We must acknowledge that our life experience perspective as white folks for whom the police are a protective presence feeds into that- it is part of our white privilege. That PERSPECTIVE does not make us more OBJECTIVE, although we are encouraged to feel so. Much of the point of an uprising of community protest is to raise systemic problems. The community who started the protest knows a lot more about the history of their interactions with this police force than we ever will, and that has come out more and more. There were so many witnesses in the community – why do their stories and reactions count less? Why is it easier for white folks to assume that a whole neighborhood of black folks are over-reacting and looking for an excuse to riot than that policemen are using unjustified force and trying to cover their butt. There is study after study nationally on this. But the community should not have to lay out their full case of evidence to have a right to protest. Just as no one should have to prove Mike Brown was a good angel in order for him to have a right to due process and not being killed in the street. Even if he is rushing the police they have a choice of tackling him, tasing, they have a choice of shooting for the feet or legs to stop him. He was unarmed. But perhaps most importantly- It is not our place as white allies to judge whether or not a flashpoint incident that sparks black protest is valid or not. Over policing and police brutality is a problem in this country. We can be pretty sure that if a protest is successful in getting a thorough investigation, that cops rights will be much more protected than the victims.

      • stephen matlock
        August 24, 2014

        Thanks for this. It is a crazy world where we lock up men and women (mostly men) because they’re black and because we fear them. At some point cute black kids become scary black adults we must control.

        And you’re right about the scary black man having to hold it in. I didn’t use to think this was a true thing. People were making it up about the scary black man. Then I listened to my friends and watched social situations where a white guy getting angry is just a normal person expressing himself, while a black guy getting angry is cause for concern because: thug.

        I don’t have any solution yet. But it’s not right that we set expectations of how one part of our society can express themselves because we’re fearful.

      • Yeek
        August 25, 2014

        I suppose my point is that the systemic grievance of institutionalized racism/profiling and the individualized grievances of this particular case aren’t necessarily the same thing. Everyone has the right to protest if they feel the need, with or without evidence. With that said, ONE goal of protests is to elicit change. I think most people would say that harassing a kid on the street and grabbing him by the throat, then shooting him in the back when he tries to flee, then killing him execution style when his hands are over his head in surrender is unbelievably sickening and engraging. On the flip side, most people would say that punching an officer in the eye, trying to take his gun, and then turning and rushing him when he tells you to freeze is a far less cut-and-dried story. I see a lot of people using words like “defiance” without facing the obvious risk that a situation like this could involve. We all know that you can’t tell if someone is unarmed just by looking at them, and that you can easily kill or maim someone with their fists alone. Is shooting in the legs or feet a proven police tactic? Did the office have a taser unit? Where there several officers present who could overpower Brown without having to use lethal force? These are legitimate questions to ask that can affect the case, and I agree that the black community does not need the approval of anyone to protest. But if their goal is to use protest to insist on change, they can’t pick sketchy examples to make their point. It just won’t be effective, and all that energy will go to waste.

      • CHIQUILA
        August 27, 2014


    • Joey Giraud
      August 23, 2014

      Yeek, there’s no “side” to choose from here. You’re looking for an excuse to let the cop off the hook. Any lame little excuse will do.

      There’s no excuse at all. None.

      You know, it’s not like anyone here is calling *you* a murderer. Why work so hard to let a white cop off the hook for killing an unarmed black kid?

      • Yeek
        August 25, 2014

        Nope, Joey, I don’t think I’ve said that at all.

      • Christopher
        August 25, 2014

        When did he ever show any signs of excuse. He just talked about the facts and the possible conclusions. This absolutely sickens me, you won’t dare to look at the facts and when they are presented you get offended. The point of his post was that there isn’t enough evidence here and that is completely true. Yeek worked hard to write that post to show people that we can’t just assume it was cold-blooded murder. And of course you won’t reply because it’s obvious you are wrong. If a cop is in danger he MUST save his life. That is an excuse for a cop to kill someone. I’m not saying that happened but it is a possibility you fail to see.

    • realbkw
      August 23, 2014

      Yes. Yes. And yes!

    • Stephanie
      September 7, 2014

      As a citizen, investigate whether being punched in the face and rushed by an unarmed assailant would be legal justification for you to shoot and kill that person, look into self defense law and precedent. Then investigate whether it is a typical police response to shoot to death violent, dangerous defendants in general. You might find in the course of your research that an armed and dangerous white suspect is less likely to be killed by police than an unarmed black person is (the movie theater shooter who was taken alive although he was armed and had killed numerous people in Colorado is just one example). In Brockton, Massachusetts, a white man went on a shooting spree on Main St. in broad daylight- killed two women, a homeless man, and put a bullet through the headrest of a police cruiser before being taken alive. A police officer with numerous non lethal options and training to subdue a person without killing him, and the ability to call for a swarm of backup officers, is justified in dumping a bunch of bullets into a teenager if he was punched in the face and rushed? Much of white America has internalized the message that young black men are dangerous wild animals. On the other hand, if you were told that the dogs fighting on Michael Vick’s property were violent, dangerous canines who had attacked children, would that make you any less inclined to want justice for those actual animals? Probably not, but you could justify the killing of a young black man, if he punched the cop in the face. Interesting.

      • HighImpactThinking
        September 8, 2014

        Stephanie, thank you for your thoughtful comments. What I don’t ever see questioned is the underlying believe that black men are or can be more violent than white. Where does this come from? If you look at the historical record, it’s not so much that black men are violent as they have been the victims of violence perpetrated by fearful and angry “white” mobs. After centuries of cruelty, violence, slavery, systematic subjugation, whites have created created the angry black man they are so afraid of. It’s time we stop projecting our own demons on others.

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  4. Brandy
    August 22, 2014

    What a ridiculous story. Many people are reluctant to speak out until they know the facts. The fact that you’ve jumped to conclusions before knowing what really happened shows how ignorant you are. You should be ashamed of yourself for fanning the flames with no regard for the truth. If the officer killed Michael Brown for no reason other then the fact that he’s black, then yes, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If Michael Brown attacked the officer then the officer was justified in protecting himself. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? That’s right, he’s automatically guilty because he’s white. And yet you talk about finding “an active role for white people in the fight against racism”. Who are you to help anyone when you’re so racist yourself? If we all took your stance we could just as easily assume that Michael Brown is the guilty one. This “white person” has chosen to wait to comment because I refuse to condemn anyone without knowing the truth. Perhaps you should do the same.

    • Stephanie
      August 22, 2014

      Well said, Brandy. I totally agree with your sentiments.

    • Joey Giraud
      August 23, 2014

      Brandy, you’re trying to turn the perpetrator into the victim.

      The cop, this Wilson guy, he killed an unarmed kid. That’s all the truth you need.

      • Darius T
        August 23, 2014

        Joey, we need more facts than that. Just because he was unarmed doesn’t mean he wasn’t a threat. Unless, of course, you think women raped by unarmed men have no case.

      • Brandy
        August 23, 2014

        If you read the post again you’ll see I said no such thing. What I’m saying is why doesn’t everyone wait for the facts before taking a side. I don’t believe in supporting or condemning someone based only on their race. I’d have the same argument if this was a post with people saying the officer did nothing wrong and is innocent. Why? Because I don’t know what happened, and neither do you.

    • stephen matlock
      August 24, 2014

      Darren Wilson isn’t guilty because he’s white, and he’s not guilty because he’s a cop. In fact, he’s not guilty of anything, yet, because there’s been no trial, and not even a move yet to take him to trial. The grand jury is still meeting. We might see something. I will predict that there will be no case brought, and no trial, and Officer Wilson will be put back into his position, maybe not in Ferguson, but in another town.

      But here are the facts:

      A kid got gunned down in the street. That is a fact. The kid was killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson. That is a fact. Michael Brown’s body lay in the hot sun for four hours. That is a fact. The officer did not report the situation for a while. That is a fact. The officer was kept anonymous for more than a few days. That is a fact. The officer’s name was released after the officer left town. That is a fact. The official police report released in response to inquiries was largely blank with almost no details. That is a fact. The city, the police force, the police union, the friends and family of Darren Wilson, and even Darren Wilson himself are staying completely silent on all these events. That is a fact.

      The residents of Ferguson, mostly black, are ruled by a nearly all-white city government and police force. That is a fact. The city of Ferguson has a history of financing its operations using warrants and court fees and fines. That is a fact. These fees and fines are paid for largely by the poorest of the city of Ferguson’s residents. That is a fact. The police force in Ferguson has already shown that it will arrest the wrong black man, beat him and jail him, and then charge him with destroying city property for bleeding on police uniforms. That is a fact. The police force in Ferguson has already been shown to keep incomplete records of police officer conduct. That is a fact. One of the officers keeping the peace has been recorded as saying the most vile things and is part of the extra-legal Oath Keepers movement, a movement to usurp the legally constituted authority of our constitutional government. That is a fact.

      Now, with all these facts–not speculations, just facts–and given the residents of the city of Ferguson have no voice in their government, see their “rulers” speak vilely and evilly about them, and see how they are as sheep to be shorn by their government, why is it so unreasonable to think that Michael Brown will not receive justice and that his killer will simply be let off?

      The people of Ferguson are rightly offended and angry at how they are being treated and how they are being marginalized.

      It is probably not too much to ask that we listen to them and think how bad things have to be that it takes a kid killed in the street for us even to think about having a conversation about race and racial disparity.

      We’re not talking about whether Officer Wilson is guilty. A trial–if there ever is one–will determine that. What we’re talking about is why we are perfectly content as white Americans to let black Americans live without the same inalienable rights as we have and enjoy. We’re more concerned that we, as white people, are being discomforted by this discussion than the clearly disparate and unequal participation black Americans have in our common American civil liberties.

      • Brandy
        August 24, 2014

        I’m perfectly willing to discuss it; it doesn’t make me uncomfortable to do so. And while I agree with many of your points I disagree when you say we aren’t discussing whether or not the officer is guilty. If you read the comments and the post you’ll see the officer’s guilt or innocence is a common theme. The writer specifically used the word murder. So how can you say his guilt or innocence is not one of the issues here? Yes you have many facts, but do you have them all? That is the only point I’ve been trying to make. This is tragic and needs to be talked about. But how can we talk about it when people refuse to acknowledge that there are two sides to every story? How can we talk about it when some people have already made up their minds about what happened that day? And that goes for both sides. Yes Michael Brown was killed by Officer Wilson. Did the officer kill him out of hate? I don’t know. Did the officer kill him because he felt threatened? I don’t know. But I don’t think I’m wrong for wanting to know and I won’t be force-fed someone’s version of events when they don’t know either.

      • Jimena
        August 31, 2014

        YES. OMG, thank you.

        I too believe that we should wait until all the facts are in before deciding whether Darren Wilson is guilty of murder or whether he truly acted in self-defence.

        But the facts that are *already* in are more than enough just justify black – and white ally – outrage.

    • Kate
      August 24, 2014

      Couldn’t have said it better myself, Brandy. Well said.

      • Christopher
        August 25, 2014

        @Brandy, you certainly are very thoughtful and logical, and through your posts I feel you are well-intentioned in this matter

        @stephen matlock, I feel you have good intentions here but take the time to read Brandy’s reply, I think you missing some of the things he is saying.

    • Fay
      August 25, 2014

      I agree with Stephen Matlock’s comment below. So many of these cases of extrajudicial killings of black men are never brought to justice. You are assuming that our judicial system is simply “just” , and not racist .Do you remember Travon Martin, Amedou Dialo( who was killed by an officer shoving a stick up his butt), and Oscar Grant, who was shot on a train platform on New Year’s Day In Oakland while he was waiting for a train? And is it “just” for an officer to shoot a kid in the head even if the kid was defying him?!

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  6. Nguyen
    August 22, 2014

    I’m going out on a limb here, but I suspect that one of the reasons most white people don’t engage is because they will be accused of being insensitive, out of touch, & racist if they were to present any opposing view points.

    How can an honest and open-minded conversation take place when the author of this article has already concluded that the police officer murdered Michael Brown before knowing all the facts?

    Shouldn’t we wait until all the facts are presented before we pass judgement? We in the minority communities ask that we not be so quickly judged by those in the majority, then shouldn’t we afford Police Officer Darren Wilson the same courtesy?

  7. Jamie Perry
    August 23, 2014

    Funny, how anyone of color conveniently forgets that mere hours before, this unarmed black MAN ASSAULTED AND ROBBED A MAN. They forget that had this unarmed black MAN NOT DONE THAT, then said unarmed black MAN’s reaction when confronted with the police wouldn’t have been what it was. I am SICK of every time a cop shoots an unarmed black man, the entire WORLD is supposed to come to a screeching halt. Fact:More unarmed WHITE men are shot by cops than unarmed BLACK men, many of them by BLACK officers. I don’t see ANYONE going insane, stopping the city in it’s tracks, and screaming about civil rights and history when an unarmed WHITE man gets shot by the police. REALITY: If everyone actually BEHAVED AND FOLLOWED THE LAWS, guess what? WE WOULD ALL BE TREATED EQUALLY. When you have a portion of society that continually rides the coat tails of history and screams “RACE RACE RACE RACE” every single time something happens to one of them, MOST PEOPLE WILL TURN AGAINST YOU. My heritage is Irish, Scottish, and Cherokee Indian, and I can guarantee you that “My people” have suffered just as much, indeed, more, than “yours.” However, I don’t see myself, or anyone else with my heritage causing the entire nation to come to a halt, refusing to follow the LAW, and being part of the horrible aftermath of these tragic things. NO. We stay HOME. We THINK about ALL sides of the affairs, we follow the LAW, and we aren’t being arrested for NOT following the law, and not being arrested for losing it, attacking people, and breaking into peoples livelihoods and robbing them! FACT: Most people don’t give one damn about your COLOR, WE CARE ABOUT HOW YOU BEHAVE. You did “your people” exactly NO favors here, none at all, all you managed to do was piss people off even more.

    I’m not an “ally” for ANYONE. REASON: I treat everyone the SAME. Period! Your little “thing” here, it’s utter drivel and trash, and you should be ashamed that you even thought it, let alone put it out for the world to see. YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM YOU CLAIM YOU WANT TO SOLVE. PLEASE. You’re just making it WORSE.

    • Reader1
      September 1, 2014

      How is it that so many white commentators have all the facts (the same ones they are “waiting for”) even before he investigation is over?
      I hear people talking about what Brown did–all sorts of detailed theories about rushing and punching and “menacing”.
      Where do these details come from?

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  9. Joey Giraud
    August 23, 2014

    Fifty three year old white male from the Midwest taking your words to heart. This is exactly what white America needs to do, and I will do more to talk to other whites about these realities. ( Like my brother who repeats many of the lies told about Michael Brown )

    It’s amazing to me that some white people can look at a black face and not see another human being.

  10. laurie
    August 23, 2014

    If Michael Brown did not Rob a convenience store and then walk down the middle of the street blocking traffic none of this would have happened. There is no accountability. I am shocked by the Media. Black teens yesterday shot a jogging in the back of the head with a pellet gun yesterday and shouted anti-whit slurs. Instead the black leadership is saying there will be further protests if the Darren Wilson is not arrested

    • Reader1
      September 1, 2014

      I’d like to ask a few questions about your assumptions:

      1. What does the alleged robbing of the store have to do with the killing?

      2. How far back into someone’s past must wrongdoing go to justify their murder? Does, for example, a person deserve to be murdered during a traffic stop if they hit a family member the night before?

      3. Where did you get the information that Mr. brown was “blocking traffic” in the middle of the road?

      4. Who is the “white leadership” (if it exists)?

      • realbkw
        September 7, 2014

        1. Typically the store robbery wouldn’t be considered. Except in this case the robbery happened almost immediately before the confrontation between Brown and Wilson. It would have been fresh in Brown’s mind and most assuredly would have been a factor in his decision making at the time he was approached by Wilson. Would Brown have reacted the way he (allegedly) did if he hadn’t just committed a simple shoplifting that he escalated to a felony because of his violent actions? In court they will say “it goes to his state of mind” meaning it affected his actions. He likely thought the cop was there to arrest him and whatever made him act the way he did with the store clerk also contributed to his aggressive and resistant behavior with the officer. People were trying to portray his character as that of a “gentle giant” and that he was always considerate and kind. But on that day, within minutes of the incident in the street, he had been acting like a common street thug using his size to threaten and intimidate a much smaller man from whom he was stealing merchandise.

        2. It depends on the victim’s history, the circumstances of the killing, and the judge’s discretion. In this case they’re going back about thirty minutes.

        3. The man who was with Brown admitted they were walking in the street. The reason the cop initiated contact with them was because they were walking in the street. Nobody disputes this.

        4. Nobody mentioned “white leadership.” I can’t really speak for “Laurie” but I assume by black leadership she is speaking of people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who repeatedly interject themselves in situations they think are directly a result of racism, which seems to be only instances where the victim is black and the killer is white. But you already know that, don’t you?

  11. realbkw
    August 23, 2014

    There seems to be a huge assumption that this was a racist act. If it turns out that Michael Brown was the aggressor, is it still racism?

    • Reader1
      September 1, 2014

      Should unarmed people be shot?

      • realbkw
        September 7, 2014

        Yes, if they pose a deadly threat to another person. In this case the cop couldn’t know if Brown was armed.

        Ask George Zimmerman if an unarmed person should be shot. Ask any number of people who have feared for their lives when assaulted by a bigger, stronger person. That is why there are self-defense laws.

        If you’re asking if Michael Brown should have been shot, even though we now know he was unarmed, the answer would depend on whether he truly did assault the cop and was heading back towards him when he was shot. If what the cop and a couple of witnesses say is true then the shooting was justifiable. If their accounts are not true then no, he shouldn’t have been shot.

  12. avoicefromtheinside
    August 23, 2014

    Dear Janee

    I just read your post “How to be a White ally in the Ferguson issue” and I must say that I felt somewhat uncomfortable. Not because of what you said. I believe that you made some good points. I guess the feeling stems from the fact that when white people stand up for blacks it is due to some trans-generational guilt. At least that is what we are taught as black kids growing up in my time. We were taught to not trust whites no matter what their agenda seemed to be. So to hear a white person take a strong stance for to ally with the blacks in this country is somewhat surreal.

    This event, and what you speak about, takes me back in mind to the civil rights area. I feel that we are at that point again, that history is repeating itself. Usually when that happens it is because something was not done right in the first place. I know that a lot of whites stood with blacks during that time. But, history also shows that women had a lot to gain during that time. White women in particular. With the voting rights and female liberties being at the forefront of their cause. It made all the sense to align with the other minorities of that time. From my study of the history of Blacks in this country I have always found that white women were more courageous than white men in speaking out against unfair acts. So to hear you speak the way you are speaking now is, as i say, somewhat surreal.

    It is sad when other races have to stand up for our race. When Black men cannot speak up and articulate their fears and concerns to others outside of our race. It hurts and damage our credibility in the world. It makes us seem more inferior to those outside our race. Yet the situation is so dire that to speak out is to risk being shot and killed.

    I am incarcerated, and have been for 21 years now. I came to prison at 17 when the war on drugs was at an all time high. I will say that part of what we are witnessing now has direct relationship to Regan’s declaration of war on drugs. In a war you need an enemy, you need soldiers, and you need weapons. What we see now is part of a bigger plan and scheme. A plan that has yet to fully manifest itself.

    I know what it is like to be in an environment provoked by anger and controlled by fear. What I witness on TV is similar to what I see around me everyday in prison. The system is one and the same..

    I hope that we can get to a place where we don’t have to use words such as black and white to identify ourselves with. I hope that one day we can come to a place where we can see things for what they really are. To do so is to be honest about the origins of this country and the atrocities that occurred to acquire the land. About the atrocities of the people that built this land. Until we can acknowledge this we will continue to be at odds and kill one another.

    I applaud your decision to take the stand that you took. To align yourself with what is right, even if it is unpopular. Because at this point in time a black man cannot come out and take that stand. Without being label bitter and angry.

  13. stephen matlock
    August 24, 2014

    I’m starting to think there is one more thing: white people coming into a conversation about race need to listen a lot more before they start talking. The main reason white people are ignorant when talking and responding to discussions about racial and racist issues in America is because they have no clue whatsoever what it is like to be the subject of racism. Since they seem to feel that racism is “bad,” and that they themselves are not “bad” people, then of course racism doesn’t exist.

    Gene Robinson wrote a helpful article recently on this.


    There are two very good paragraphs here (taken from an excellent essay):

    Any person or group can be prejudiced against another group, for any reason and based on any characteristic. But if a prejudiced group has the power to instill its own set of prejudices into the laws, culture and societal norms of the larger community, then it is an “ism.” It becomes a system which does the discriminating on behalf of the powerful majority.

    And here’s the thing about systemic racism: I actually don’t have to hold any personal prejudice against people of color in order to benefit from the system set up to reward and privilege me, as a white man, over my black or brown neighbor. This is insidious, because it allows me to say (even honestly) that I hold no bias against people of color, while still benefitting from a societal system that does the hating and privileging for me.

    No one is blaming you for being racist because they think your the bad guy. But people who are the subject of racism are trying to tell you something, and you can’t hear it because you’re convinced that (a) you’re not wrong and (b) you have no responsibility to change anything.

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  16. Jen Sell
    August 25, 2014

    I’m now grateful for my online friends of all creeds because it is at least half of what we discuss. VIGOROUSLY. We don’t all agree, but we definitely engage.
    Now family…well….

    But the Pew data is so far from my ivory tower experience it tempts me to stay cloistered here, though that is clearly not what the courageous person does.

    We cannot afford to hide. We must engage.


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  31. brettfish
    September 4, 2014

    Thankx Janee, i think i read your piece a week ago and found it really helpful in terms of action steps to help us [especially as a white person having just returned to South Africa after three years in Americaland] to know how to proceed and have just managed to finish my own piece on White Privilege which i am hoping will help educate and at least engage the people i know on the topic – http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/im-not-sure-youre-against-that-thing-you-think-youre-against-white-privilege

    Really is a conversation we need to pick up more and go deeper on and so this and other posts are really helpful for those of us wanting to be part of change but not necessarily knowing what to do next.

    Keep on
    love brett fish

    p.s. i would totally be up for a guest post from you on my blog on this issue if you’d be up for it…

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  33. Laquetta
    September 6, 2014

    White Supremacy is White folks problem and it’s going to take the White folks who understand it to work it out with the White folks who don’t. Black folks, we have our problems and we must deal with them ourselves. Change is comming because we can’t continue this way.

  34. Laquetta
    September 6, 2014

    White Supremacy is White folks problem and it’s going to take the White folks who understand it to work it out with the White folks who don’t. Black folks, we have our problems and we must deal with them ourselves. No human being deserves to be shot and killed like an animal and left lying in the street for hours. Change is comming because we can’t continue on this way. Peace.

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  37. Angela Grant
    September 15, 2014

    Reblogged this on Failure to Listen and commented:
    “His [Mike Brown] death isn’t tragic because he was a sweet kid on his way to college next week. His death is tragic because he was a human being and his life mattered. “

  38. Otis R. Needleman
    September 15, 2014

    A better idea…tell people not to walk down the middle of the street. If Brown was walking on the sidewalk there wouldn’t have been any encounter with the police officer. Another better idea…tell people with grievances that it is utterly counterproductive to trash, loot, and burn businesses in their own community. Those burned-out ruins can’t employ your neighbors or sell you products you might need. Yet another better idea…don’t complain about the people elected to run your city if you won’t make the effort to vote yourself, much less run for office.

    Not rocket science, people, just common sense.

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