I organize with an incredible, nationally-coordinated group called Showing Up for Racial Justice. We are white folks organizing against racism. And what better target to organize against than Trump, and the people who invited him to speak at a GOP Gala in midtown in April. The Gala, which was full of party elites and all three GOP candidates, was held at the Grand Hyatt in Midtown. My SURJ-NYC crew and I blocked the limo entrance to the Hyatt, seemingly preventing dozens of people from entering the Gala.
Here’s why, as I white person, I decided this was worth getting arrested for:
1) You ever heard the phrase: “come get your boy?” As a white person, I see Trump – and his supporters – as my responsibility. For too long, in both hometowns like mine and in our own personal circles, we have gone without having hard discussions about racism and economic justice. We have let bad systems and false ideas perpetuate, as a default. And our silence has, consequently, emboldened people like Trump and his kind. We have, in some ways, paved the way for them. We need to sit with that, and then we need to go take care of it.
2) I protest people, causes, ideas, policies which are dangerous and which are enjoying widespread support. I don’t protest fringe issues that aren’t worth my time, or in which I don’t have a stake. This is not a fringe issue. Two of my local reps in NY are planning to support Trump if he is the party nominee, and they both represent districts who Trump and Cruz (who is not off the hook by any means) have openly said he would spy on, “crack down on,” and in some cases, deport. Lest I forget the ways they would limit me and my choices. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
3) I don’t know how often I can tell myself and others this: changemaking is never comfortable or expedient. I get shit slung at me every time I protest, by folks who like to say: “protesting is not the way to change minds.” Guess what? I’ve got a whole toolbox of ways to change minds. Some of it is having tough conversations. Some of it is voting. Some of it is writing. And some of it is recognizing that sometimes you just have to shut shit down.
4) Getting arrested is a risk that white people should take as often as possible, as opposed to our people of color counterparts. The fact of the matter is: for us, the risk – of police misconduct, of an escalation to violence, of being falsely charged with misdemeanors, is much lower. During this action, ten SURJ members were arrested and held in jail for approximately 4 hours. With us in the same cell block were activists and protesters of color who were not let out until hours later, or, in some cases, until the following day – some with heavier charges than our own. From the moment we were arrested till the moment we were let out, we were treated with cordiality and leniency. This includes a van ride to jail wherein our accompanying police officers were chatting casually, letting out racial slurs every few minutes.
It is our duty to show up for people of color, and it is our obligation to ensure we do so strategically, and in a way that is often risky, impactful, and at the leadership of people of color. Trump, and the ideas he gives platform to, are not welcome in my city. I think we made that clear.