Many White Allies are asking themselves, how they can help as the revolution our BIPOC brothers and sister have been needing for centuries, rages on.
We march, educate ourselves, sign petitions, donate, amplify BIPOC voices, and show our solidarity and resistance in traditional and creative ways.
I attended a recent protest in the primarily White suburbs of Minneapolis I live in. My suburb is a short drive from where George Floyd was murdered and many people in my community commute into Minneapolis for work and recreation.
The organizers of this protest brought sidewalk chalk and we vented our frustrations directly onto the pavement.
I took this idea home with me and started decorating my own driveway with what I viewed as uplifting and supportive statements towards the Black Lives Matter movement. This was inspired by my friend and fellow Therapist, Moraya Seeger Degeare LMFT. She is inspiring others to join her in creating resistance chalk art using the social media tag #ToMyOldRacistEarth
My first interaction with a neighbor was beautiful. One of my few neighbors of color complimented me on the art and told me he found it very moving and asked me if he could take a picture with his drone. This picture is the amazing shot he captured and sent to me.
Unfortunately, this neighbor is not representative of either the racial makeup of or the general feelings held by the neighborhood. The majority of my neighbors are White and in the Boomer generation and quickly and decisively informed me of their opinions about the messages on MY driveway.
Neighbor after neighbor approached me while I was getting the mail, walking my dog, or taking out the trash and combatively tried to start debates and eventually resorted to degrading and insulting me for my views.
The first action they took was to report me to our HOA and threatened me with fines.
My HOA like others are not lightning fast with their responses to in the meantime they took it upon themselves to take a hose to my art.
Luckily I interrupted their attempts, executed through the poor young gardener who apologized profusely, and only a small portion was washed away.
It felt so symbolic and heartbreaking to see the names of the Black men and women erased under the direction of White homeowners.
Gone were the names of Sandra Bland, Philando Castille, Freddie Grey, and others because White folks felt uncomfortable, nay threatened, seeing their names.
The HOA finally delivered their verdict and upheld that I have a right to free speech after consulting an attorney, yes they did, because this was a in their words a “civil rights issue” but stated that I had used “profane and vulgar language” and had to be respectful in the messages I wrote.
Judge for yourself but I am not aware of any cursing or innuendo that was used in my messaging. So the neighbors lied to the HOA, trying in vain to get my art removed.
Meanwhile, verbal assaults continued and when the chalk art continued despite their grievances, notes began appearing on my door. The most surprising to me was the claim that my actions were “frightening the elders in the neighborhood”.
This is White Fragility in action. This is what leads White women to call the police on innocent Black men in their neighborhood or bird watching.
This is what leads Law Enforcement to pull the trigger because they “fear” for their lives when faced with unarmed Black and Brown men. Fear. Fear is weaponized again and again by White people to justify their horrendous actions.
This is implicit bias in action.
Unexamined prejudice and bias that fuels fear that need not be there in the first place. Black skin is not something to be afraid of, and last I heard sidewalk chalk has a survival rate of nearly 100%.
So, with all this push back, why continue drawing on my driveway?
Honestly, I don’t know if my answers are the right ones, but I know that cowering to their hate doesn’t feel right.
Do I want to prove to them that my sidewalk chalk continuing doesn’t mean I am a part of ANTIFA and in fact won’t burn down their homes?
Do I stubbornly not want to back down from a fight?
Do I want to continue showing solidarity with my, understandably silent, Black and Brown neighbors?
Do I want to piss them off and continue making them uncomfortable and have to face the realities of injustice in our world?
Yes, to all of the above.
One of my latest messages reads “Black Lives Matter More than White Feelings” and I mean it. I am well aware that they do not like seeing the messages I write.
They have made that perfectly clear.
One neighbor, a social worker in the Wayzata School system, took it a step further and sent a letter to my employer.
In this letter she threatened to also contact my licensing board. I have concerns of my own about this social worker working in the school system with Black and Brown students when her actions in her own neighborhood seem in direct conflict with the social work codes of conduct and ethics.
Thankfully, my employer is fully supportive and loved my sidewalk chalk and told me he laughed at the ridiculousness of this Lady’s letter.
I trust the MN Board of Marriage and Family Therapy will respond similarly when this woman inevitably contacts them with a complaint.
Yet, I will continue to write them and make noise.
Even in my own little corner of the world, I will make noise and remind them that I won’t be quiet while the officers who killed Breonna Taylor remain free, that one of the men responsible for George Floyds murder was seen not far from here out on bail shopping for groceries. While 120 Black and Brown lives and counting have been needlessly ended by law enforcement since George Floyd went to join his Mother in Heaven.
While thousands upon thousands of innocent people sit in jail because they cannot make bail, and thousands of children suffer without their parents in cages at the border for seeking asylum. I will not be silent. I never thought sidewalk chalk would receive this much backlash and I do not want one shred of praise or congratulations for this, I am absolutely not a hero.
Sidewalk chalk is the very least I can do to show my support and my white privilege protects me from much worse backlash I could endure.
What I do want is action and change and for people to see that we haven’t come as far as we thought if our neighbors get more upset about sidewalk chalk than BIPOC folx dying.