white people should never be the lead singer

I am going to attempt to lay-out a critical theory to collective redemption.

Some weeks ago the mainstream media got ahold of some delicious mangled carcass, and like hyaenas, screamed and pulled and gnawed it apart – I refer to that Dohezal lady. Now the fact that a substantial quantity of people know what I am referencing is the first of our collective failures. Not one iota of attention should be given to what hairstyle this person wears, what vernacular she has learned, or what culture she claims because the people who have to interact with her in the small world she exists in can make their own choices, judgements, and hopefully school her some. She did exemplify one of the key ways that non-Black peoples continually fail the struggles of Black folk for justice, in that she got large scale media attention, had a paying job at the forefront of an organization, and promoted herself as a spokesperson. Now for shorthand I will refer to peoples who are privileged to gain from and thus reinforce the racial hierarchy in this world as white people – but let’s apply that as liberally as possible, not just to WASPS.

Now the failure occurs at the point that a white person gets attention, gets magnified, focused on, paid for, awards for, recognition, accolades, or funded for the work done by Black folks. Let’s use the metaphor of a rock band. White people should never be the lead singer – the focus must be on Black folks lived experiences and wisdom. White people should never be writing the lyrics. White people should never be the drummer of the band, it is not for them to set the beat of the work. Perhaps a white person can be a second guitarist or a tambourine player, if they are especially good at serving in a supportive role. But the place where white people truly ought to be is selling drinks, clean up crew, equipment manager, roadies, bus drivers – anything that helps the larger effort, anything that is not glamorous, that goes unnoticed, that is grunt work – if they have been invited to help. If they have not been invited, and even if they have, then they should be offering financial resources.

Now let’s say there is a really great white guy guitar player, he is welcome to help coach a new young Black guitarist, to share what he knows. He can buy him a new guitar. He is welcome to offer his access to the music industry, to a social web within the music world, to direct magazines and journalists to report on this new guitar player. But then there are the white people who say, but I went to the best music school and trained with the best teachers, and love playing guitar, and I know I can lead a really great rock band. If that is your route, then you must acknowledge that it is for your own gain, your own actualization, and perpetuates racial injustice. Plain and simple.

So what does it this mean in a practical sense, something that some non-Black peoples have learnt and practiced well, but unfortunately too many have not – the place for non-Black folks is in the background, is doing support, is on the clean up crew. Stop asking for or accepting any spotlights, headlines, speaking invitations, platforms, medals, awards, funding that is meant to be for the struggle for Black freedom.

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to fail or not to fail, what is your response

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