The outpouring of non-black support met with appreciation and skepticism

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Tuesday morning, black square after black square replaced the selfies and puppies and large beer cans that normally populate Instagram, the popular photo-sharing app. They were intended to amplify the voice of blacks, but had the opposite result, highlighting the complicated nature of the alliance.

The messages, mostly written by white people rather than black in a movement called Blackout Tuesday, were intended to symbolize users who were silenced. But because many were labeled #BlackLivesMatter, they instead buried messages from black activists.

“It was a signal of virtue, it was performative,” said Gabrielle Warren, 23, a black woman in Oakville, Ontario, who woke up irritated to see what her Instagram feed had become. “And the articles on the mental health of black people, on police funding, on what was going on in the south, were deleted. “

A week and a half since the death of George Floyd, a black man whose last words were “I can’t breathe” while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, Blacks asked white and not black people around them: what are you going to do to help us and how are you going to do it effectively?

They reacted in different ways: posted on social media, marched alongside black protesters, led unprecedented sales of books on racism, and directed financial support to black grassroots organizations and bailout funds.

But seasoned black organizers and those studying militancy for racial justice wonder if this is a turning point, or, like previous movements, a brief moment of performative alliance that will fade away as and as the news cycle advances.

The last widespread protests in response to anti-black police violence took place in 2014. That summer Michael Brown, an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white policeman. His death sparked months of racial unrest in the city and international media coverage.

Ismaël Traoré, who wrote his doctoral thesis on white allies, said that in the six years since Ferguson, blacks have worked to educate white people: writing articles and books, organizing workshops and discussions, transforming popular movements such as Black Lives Matter into professional organizations. . Although it has not yet been studied, he theorizes that this work may result in increased Allied engagement after Mr. Floyd’s death.

“The reasons why whites should participate today are the same as those that existed before, but it is just now that they understand it more,” he said.

In Toronto, a demonstration was held last weekend after the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a black woman who died after falling from a balcony in the presence of the police in a case that is currently the subject of investigation by the Ontario police watchdog. The 22-year-old black woman who co-hosted the protest said she noticed many non-black protesters on Saturday, but “I don’t think they should necessarily be commended.”

“This has been going on for so long, and if it took another black person to die for people to realize it, this is where the problem begins,” said Gisselle, who told The Globe and Mail agreed to identify by his first name as his activism resulted in death threats from white supremacists.

Sandy Hudson, who co-founded Black Lives Matter Toronto in 2014, said last week that there has been an increase in donations to her organization as well as to the Black Legal Action Center, a not-for-profit legal clinic that serves people with low income and no income. black people in Ontario. Many have also sent money to replenish funds across the United States. Hudson said she welcomes the funds, but would like the donation to be supported, not just caused by widespread violence.

She speculated that the video of Mr. Floyd’s death, as well as videos of other violent police-black interactions, were what had mobilized those who had previously ignored messages from groups such as than hers.

“It is discouraging because people should believe us, but I think it has an impact when people can really see that the police treat black communities differently – that we often die at their hands. “

This alarm clock has caused many people to read about anti-darkness. BookNet, which tracks book sales at 2,000 retail locations across Canada, noted a 635% increase in sales of printed books by black authors written for non-black audiences, such as Ijeoma Oluo’s. So you want to talk about race, Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an anti-racist and Layla F. Saad Me and white supremacy from the week ending May 24 to the week ending May 31 on the Canadian English-language commercial market. White fragility by Robin DiAngelo was Penguin Random House Canada’s best-selling book at major retailers this past weekend, according to the publisher.

For Paul Gorski, founder of Asheville, North Carolina, of the Equity Literacy Institute, who studied activism for racial justice, just reading a book doesn’t make us an ally – it’s actions that follow that are important.

There is a concept in critical racial theory called convergence of interests, where a predominantly white society will invest in racial justice as long as the interests of that society align with racial justice. Gorski said few people are interested in asking the bigger questions about how they can redistribute power, especially if it means giving up some of them.

“How do I tell my child about racism?” This is the kind of question I have. No, “What is an organization I can connect with that actively fights police violence?” “”

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