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The Harts were hideous monstrosities of unbounded proportions.

[Content Warning: child abuse, anti-Blackness, state violence, murder of Black children, suicide.]  

Years of reported child abuse claims, including physical harm and starvation, recently culminated in the death of an entire family. Sarah and Jennifer Hart drove their SUV off a California roadside cliff with their adopted children inside. Three of the children were found among the car wreckage along with the two women — Markis (19), Abigail (14), and Jeremiah (14). The other three remain unfound and are presumed dead, possibly washed out to sea. They are Hannah (16), Sierra (12), and Devonte (15).

Investigators now believe that the crash was intentional, citing the fact that the speed was set at 90 mph and the lack of skid marks, but Black people knew it in our spirit all along. From the moment the story broke, we fucking knew it. We sat and watched as others speculated about it, giving these two abusive, murderous white women the benefit of the doubt after they had driven their adopted Black children off a 100-foot cliff.

We knew it in 2014 when Devonte Hart, with tears welling up in his eyes, was photographed in a tentative embrace with a white cop at a Black Lives Matter rally and the image instantly went viral. Other photos from that day show that Devonte was already in tears even before he was approached by the cop. In Sgt. Bret Barnum’s own account of the event, he states that the boy was “hesitant” to speak to him, but he persisted with the conversation and ultimately asked for the hug.

Devonte’s body language in the photos spoke volumes to us. It felt like coercion. It felt like a 12 year-old Black boy, who was at a rally to protest the Grand Jury's failure to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown, was afraid to speak to a white police officer, but was pressured into doing so anyway as others surrounded him and took the opportunity to snap the perfect “feel good” photo. And we were not at all surprised when Sgt. Barnum was later caught up in a controversy for publicly showing his support of Darren Wilson on Facebook.

We know what it looks like when Black people are being used as a tool of performative allyship and white liberalism. Devonte was made a spectacle and used as propaganda, by his guardian who accompanied him and by every person who shared the image of his obvious pain with musings about how racial togetherness and free hugs would magically solve all of the world's issues and end racialized state violence.

One of his guardians seized the opportunity to write about the viral photo on Facebook, saying that they attended the rally in hopes of “spreading love and kindness, and to remind (ALL) people that they matter in this world.” The Harts failed Devonte and his siblings in more ways than one.

This is why performative white allyship is so dangerous, and not just for the Black and non-Black kids who get adopted by them. It is insidious, to say the least, when “good white folks” impersonate someone who truly cares about anti-racism work, even as they continue to uphold white supremacy in their words and actions, and continually harm people of color.

 

We witness this ally theater daily, both in our communities and on the larger world's stage. We see the way that people like the Hart couple insulate themselves with people of color as tokens and trophies to provide themselves an alibi for their racism.

We see the way they fetishize Martin Luther King, Jr. and a non-violent stance, whitewashing and re-writing his legacy to present an ahistorical vision of the civil rights leader who ultimately saw the validity of violence as a form of resistance, because they plugged their ears after “I have a dream.”

Their white saviorism complex is painfully obvious, a perpetuation of the colonialist and imperialist self-aggrandizing belief that people of color always need white people to save us, even from the white supremacy that they actively participate in and continually benefit from.

And how dare we not bestow accolades upon them for “liberating” us? We, deadpan as they explode into tears and go on social media rants when people of color don't fall to our knees and thank them profusely for being gracious enough to do work on our behalf. We hear them scream, “I've always been good to you negroes” before exiting stage left in a huff.

We side-eye the ones who are so glaringly only “progressive and forward-thinking” because they see it as a trend, like their avocado toast and the aesthetics that they appropriated from hood Black girls. They list social justice work that they never actually did on their resume and OkCupid profiles for social capital, and pats on the back, and so they can more easily fuck the people color that they fetishize.

The “I’m not like other white people” declarations don't fool us. These special snowflakes take up so much fucking space as they fall over themselves trying to obscure their own privilege and disassociate themselves from the white supremacist violences of the past, present, and future.  

We roll our eyes at the white allies who demand our intellectual and emotional labor and scream “It's your job to educate me!” only to take our words back to their white ally spaces to accept all of the credit, then block us on Facebook when we call them out for their intellectual thievery.

Related: ALL WHITE PEOPLE ARE SOCIALIZED TO BE RACIST & TINA FEY MADE THAT CLEAR

Hypothetically Marshall is a feel-good ode to allyship, but in practice, it ends up being a disservice to one of the legacies of the most accomplished, important legal minds in American history.

We are living in something of a Black Renaissance right now in terms of the arts, music, and movies. After more than a decade of domination by Tyler Perry and reality TV, the silver screen and the small screen have exploded with shows like Insecure, Queen Sugar, and Atlanta and movies like Moonlight, Selma, and Fruitvale Station. But while the artistic zeitgeist of the Black Lives Matter era has paved the way for more ambitious Black stories, not all these productions hit the mark. The most recent to miss is Reginald Hudlin's Marshall featuring Chadwick Boseman in the titular role. Instead of a sweeping exploration of Thurgood Marshall's unreal career from trial lawyer to Supreme Court Justice, or an in-depth exploration of one of his many harrowing casesrumbling into the South to save the life of a falsely accused Black person — this film zeros in on a case that Thurgood Marshall could not even argue. In Marshall, Thurgood is banned from litigating in court and can only serve as an advisor to a reluctant, white Jewish insurance lawyer who argues the case instead. Hypothetically the film is a feel-good ode to allyship, but in practice, it ends up being a disservice to one of the legacies of the most accomplished, important legal minds in American history. Thurgood Marshall was a lion of the court — a looming figure with a huge personality, who for much of his career pulled off impossible cases. He argued Brown versus Board of Education and ushered desegregation. He argued in the South amid the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. He crisscrossed the nation and even argued in front of the Supreme Court.
Related: WE DON’T NEED ANYMORE YOUNG ADULT FILMS STARRING WHITE WOMEN

There is real damage being done to Black people on Facebook, and removing eight white supremacist groups while still allowing this racist abuse to go on is nothing more than performative allyship.

Following the display of white terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia last month, many sites began to drop known white supremacist hate groups from their services. Facebook was among those entities.

Over the years, I and many others have reported a number of white supremacist and white nationalist groups to Facebook. None of them were removed even though, per the “Dangerous Organizations” section of their Community Standards, these groups should not have had a place on the social media platform to begin with. But now, among public and passionate social critique of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, Facebook finally removed eight of them. Eight. There are over one hundred more.

This feels very much like when Facebook hung a Black Lives Matter manner at its headquarters two years ago. Many people commended Zuckerberg for this display and took it as a sign of allyship with Black people, but some of us knew better. Almost immediately, the banner was defaced by its employees, because Facebook employs racists. These Public Displays of Allyship do absolutely nothing to help anyone, especially when Facebook is still fundamentally racist and anti-Black.

Related: HEY, WHITE ALLIES? IT’S GAME TIME.

Dear white allies: We're tired of white people asking us how they can do better, so it's up to you to teach your friends.

By Aaminah Shakur I began this essay two days before Charlottesville, VA imploded. I originally opened with two scenarios that I have witnessed of white self-described “allies” asking how they can influence their fellow white people in their social circles to do better for Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). It seems like every time something happens, white people wring their hands and ask “what can we do?” This places the onus on marginalized people to provide suggestions, lists, links, and handholding (i.e. literal and emotional labor) at a time when we are already trying to cope with and survive the given situation. It has been my experience that even when we offer the labor of suggestions, most white "allies" will ignore (or argue) every suggestion we give. Marginalized people can literally name “this is what I need from you right now” and be told that isn’t really what we need.  While we are frequently treated as a monolith, where one of us is supposed to answer for our entire community, in the face of specific actions we ask allies to take suddenly they remember that none of us can speak for all of us, and they tell us that whatever we are asking for is unreasonable and does not represent our community’s “real” needs. So many lists fly around every time a crisis is happening, and when a new crisis happens we have to create a whole new list — even though it looks eerily like the last list that people should have been familiar with and applied to the new situation.
Related: HEY, WHITE ALLIES? IT’S GAME TIME.

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