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In an early episode of South Park, dimwitted Mr. Garrison asked Chef, an African-American, how he dealt with whites constantly co-opting black culture. Chef said, “we black people just always tried to stay out in front of them.”
Like with our slang. Black people always used to say, “I’m in the house” instead of “I’m here.” But then white people all started to say “in the house” so we switched it to “in the hizzouse.” “Hizzouse” became “hizzizzouse,” and then white folk started saying that, and we had to change it to “hizzie,” then “in the hizzle” which we had to change to “hizzle fo shizzle,” and now, because white people say “hizzle fo shizzle,” we have to say “flippity floppity floop.”
The very caucasian Mr. Garrison thanks Chef for the insight and says to his white partner, “Come on! Let’s get back to our flippity floppity floop!” Chef mutters an expletive and yells, “Oh no! DON’T CALL IT THAT!”
The protests in support of Mike Brown started with black Ferguson residents. Likewise, the Eric Garner protests started with the African-American community in New York City. So why are some of the most unruly and violent anti-cop protests populated with privileged white kids?
Last night in Berkeley, a major freeway was blocked (as was an Amtrak train) primarily by white students from the high-end university. Hordes of flannel-clad caucasians ran through the streets of Seattle, blocking traffic and even assaulting officers. New York’s Grand Central Station featured a die-in populated by selfie-taking trust-fund kids.
Like the hippest neighborhoods of our urban centers, upwardly mobile whites are taking over protests originally populated by people of color. And the founders are getting sick of the gentrification:
The crowd pushed its way through Atlantic Terminal Mall in Brooklyn on December 8, banging on windows and ignoring the hapless security guards. Hundreds of people streamed up the escalators and stopped in front of the giant discount store, whose employees were trying to close its doors to avoid a confrontation.
But that didn’t satisfy the protesters who were trying to get in. They’d been demonstrating in retail spaces all across the city over the past week, after all: Toys “R” Us, Macy’s, Forever 21 — they’d lie down for their “die-in,” say their piece, make folks uncomfortable, then move on.
As some tried to push their way into the store, Michelina Ferrara and Cherrell Brown talked them down. “White people, check your privilege!” Brown shouted into a megaphone. “We don’t need you to provoke stuff right now.”
After a moment of tension, the group lay on the ground for a die-in before moving on. As they stood outside the mall, Ferrara thanked everyone for coming — and for not giving the media and police “a reason to vilify us.”
Not only are rank-and-file protestors paler than their Guy Fawkes masks, many black organizers feel they are being shoved aside by the gentrifiers:
But as the demonstrations continue, some activists are noting the ironic reality of a racist culture obtaining within the protests themselves. Ferrara, a first-generation immigrant who identifies as mixed-race but concedes that “I have a lot of light-skinned privilege,” says she is seeing white protesters talking over people of color at meetings or dismissing their concerns. And on the evening of December 8, outside Atlantic Terminal — where protesters were hoping to disrupt the Brooklyn Nets game across the street at Barclays Center — she saw some white protesters confronting people of color who were trying to lead the demonstrations.
“There were a couple of white dudes trying to take the [megaphone] from one our leaders,” says Ferrara, a member of the New York Justice League, which helped organize the protest. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this isn’t a place for white and light-skinned folks. I just think it’s important to constantly be examining your privilege.” …
“Antiracist movements become a hot-button event a lot of white people can latch onto,” says Matthew Hughey, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut who studies white antiracist activism. “It’s very easy to identify the police officer or police department to rally against. These movements allow good, well-meaning white people to say, ‘I am a good person.’ It’s like a story they can tell their kids someday.”
Many progressives like to cast themselves as the heroes; great white saviors delivering the oppressed black man from his bondage. This trope is so common in cinema it has its own Wikipedia page.
But before Whitey redirects these latest protests toward vague gripes about capitalism, the Israeli “occupation,” or banning GMOs from Whole Foods, maybe he should head back to his pricey flippity floppity floop on the Upper East Side.
Image credit: IBT/Reuters