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The Changing Role of White Voices in Protest

In the past year, America has witnessed a substantial amount of political and social unrest. This unrest has paved the way for many Americans to protest. In 2020, we had seen Americans of all races protest against racial injustice and the killing of Black Americans by police. Many white Americans participated in protests and posted their support of the BLM movement on social media. Some joining the conversation late, and most leaving the conversation early. While people of color continuously protest and raise awareness of systematic racism and police brutality, summer 2020 saw white Americans providing more public support to the movement with a fervor that died down. Social media lamented that just because you see less BLM posts, does not mean the injustice has stopped.

Photo By: James Cooper

Just recently in 2021, we have seen mostly white Americans who supported Trump charge the Capitol claiming election fraud. Trump supporters claimed that their rights were infringed upon due to the unfair election. In the same breath, this group will deny that the rights of people of color have not been and are not infringed upon in America. This group of white people protested for themselves and still refuse to accept Biden as president. Social media was swarmed with posts surrounding the election before and after the insurrection at the Capitol.

How white voices are heard during and after both of these time periods show that White people are able to distance and remove themselves from political protests and conversations that center around the systematic struggles people of color face without much of a second thought. This is a luxury that people of color in America will never be afforded. As white people’s focus on the BLM movement fades, another instance of injustice may revert their attention back once again. While it may be a positive difference that many white Americans have decided to voice and protest against racial injustice in their country, the privilege found in whiteness is still apparent through the ways in which this group acknowledges injustice and the times in which they choose to be active in discussions of race.

Photo By: NBC News

Also clear is the selfishness and ignorance of many white protestors. After decades of protests against police brutality, a wave of white people joined the conversation and protested alongside people of color last summer. For a separate group of white people, and after a few months of speculating a fraudulent election, they stormed the Capitol to halt the process of counting votes. Reinforcing this difference in white acts of protest from protests with people of color are police and law enforcement responses. As protests filled with people of color are hit with rubber bullets, tear gas, and taken to jail, white insurrectionists at the Capitol left the building without receiving that level of attention and harm.

As white Americans begin to understand their role in political protest, they must realize what it means to fight for themselves and fight for others – to hold a value and condemn injustice for a summer and to do so forever.

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