Society and Culture

Hey, Fellow White People: We Need to Shut Up About Baltimore

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Hey, fellow white people. If you’re not going to be in support of people rising up against racism in Baltimore–and elsewhere–then shut up about it. And listen (or read, or watch. There are plenty of sources that aren’t from white people–like the ones cited throughout this piece–that we can tune into).

Now. People of color who are incensed by white supremacy and the murder of Freddie Gray (and so, so many others) have as many viewpoints about the efficacy and ethics of property damage as there are… well… people. There is no one way to understand or react to protests, anger, and anti-racist (and racist) rhetoric, so I’m not suggesting here that all or even most people of color are comfortable with or support the hashtag #BaltimoreRising as opposed to #BaltimoreRiots (for example). The reactions of people of color to racist violence are not, nor have they ever been, monolithic.


But. As people with white privilege–the privilege (even when we are queer, poor, and/or dis/abled) of living in this world without our every action being viewed as suspicious; without our every action being interpreted as representative of all white people; without fear that ourselves, our students, our children, our friends, our family, or our colleagues will be murdered by cops because they were walking down the street while Black–we don’t get to watch the uprisings via Twitter, shake our heads, and produce tweets like this:  

Or this:

As people with white privilege (there is no such thing as Black privilege, as is made clear by the dehumanizing, racist animalization that accompanies “The Counselor’s” claim above), we don’t get to condemn Black people’s responses to systemic, pervasive, ever-present, white supremacist, violent oppression. This hypocrisy is especially clear when, as Derrick Clifton over at Mic highlights so well, we do not flinch when white people start fires in the streets.  

We do not flinch when white men–their privileged masculinity popping out of their face paint and sports jerseys–burn cars, set fires, vandalize businesses, cause millions of dollars in property damage, or injure over 100 peopledrum roll… because their favorite sports team either won or lost a game.

So… according to the white-mediated mass media, Black people pouring into the streets because yet another young Black person was murdered by police for making eye contact with a cop is apparently more disturbing than white men whose entitled rage is so close to the surface that they will set cars on fire over sports and military forces covered in armor and locked-and-loaded with various deadly weapons aimed at Black youths


We really need to re-evaluate what we’re afraid of, white folks. And we need to do it now.

Jennifer Polish
Jennifer Polish is an English PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center in NYC, where she studies non/human animals and the racialization of dis/ability in young adult literature. When she’s not yelling at the computer because Netflix is loading too slowly, she is editing her novel, doing activist-y things, running, or giving the computer a break and yelling at books instead. Contact Jennifer at



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