How to Protest Without Offending White People

Michael Harriot, The Root

Many people were surprised when President Donald Trump suggested that NFL team owners fire players who quietly choose to sit out the national anthem before games, but I was not one of them.

Even though they thought they’d solved the anthem problem by blackballing protest starter Colin Kaepernick, the residual insolence displayed by the players roiled white people to no end because their protest was so disrespectful—not to a 250-year-old cloth logo or a Francis Scott Key bar song. Taking a knee is disrespectful to whiteness. It is not that white people can’t understand Kaepernick’s point of view; it’s that—to them—any other point of view is nonexistent.

For future reference, we have put together this handy-dandy checklist for designing a protest that white people will find inoffensive and respectable.

Don’t Say “White”

I have no idea why, but white people hate it when anyone uses the phrase “white people,” because, for some reason, they consider it a pejorative. When protesting police brutality, education inequality, unfair housing practices or anything else, you must be careful not to “make it all about race”—even if the thing you’re protesting is all about race.

Refer to racism as a “social issue.” Instead of slinging the phrase “white supremacy” around all willy-nilly, you can instead refer to it as “structural inequality.” If your “underprivileged” child has been fenced into a poorly funded educational system, call it an “inner-city school.”

Uttering the words “white people” only serves as a reminder of their historic ties to oppression, which can only be negated by their instinctual regurgitation of the preamble to all white excuses: “Not all white people … ” Even if you make your protest about a “societal issue” that’s not about race, you still shouldn’t expect them to join in or approve.

They already heard you say “white people.”

Don’t Say “Black”

When protesting, you must not only refrain from lumping Caucasians together, but you must also be careful not to remind them of your blackness. Again, the word conjures the imagery of oppression and makes everything about race.

Plus, it is divisive. Any mention of race is divisive because it overlooks the fact that every color and creed has problems. Some people have to worry about the leader of the free world trying to deport their children, vilifying their religion or referring to their mothers as bitches, while others have to live with the terrible burden of people constantly belittling their chicken seasoning and potato-salad-making.

We all have a struggle.

Be Inclusive

If there is one thing white people outer-city people hate, it’s being left out. If you watch the nation unite in empathy and mourning for the single Caucasian victim of white supremacy, while ignoring the fact that the same supremacists have terrorized people of color for more than a century; when you see Justine Damond’s death change the leadership of an entire police force while streets run red with black blood spilled by acquitted police officers, you still shouldn’t say, “Black lives matter.”

Even if there has never been a nanosecond in the long history of America during which anyone questioned the worth of white lives, you must still include them. You should also be inclusive enough to make up an entirely new category of human being and announce that blue lives matter, too.

Unless you hate cops …

… and smurfs.

Be Invisible

White people The average American doesn’t mind protest … as long as he or she can’t see it. You absolutely have the constitutional right to feel a little morose whenever your son, neighbor or fellow citizen is shot, choked, beaten or discriminated against—as long as you don’t obstruct the weekend Caucasian commute to the mall to purchase yoga pants. Why should they have to think about the disproportionate, continual murder of black people when they’re trying to get half-price cargo shorts at the Gap? That’s just un-American.

You can object to inequality as much as you’d like, as long as it isn’t at sporting events. No one wants to think about politics at sporting events. Or at political rallies. Or inaugurations. Or on social media. Or at schools. Or at actual protests.

Everywhere else is fine.

Be Respectful

If you miraculously find a place to protest, find an inoffensive phrase and include people from all groups, you should still be mindful that there is a list of things that white people the overprivileged value more than your life, freedom, equality or happiness. Your civil disobedience must not offend or disparage any of the following: flags that represent America, flags that represent traitors to America, monuments, names of buildings, statues, stained-glass windows, cats, American flags, 150-year-old songs, freedom of speech (but only their freedom of speech, not yours), bathrooms, dogs, the children (not children, but “the children”), the Founding Fathers, first responders, blue lives, religious freedom (Christian only), traffic and troops.

Especially troops. Wypipo love troops. They can watch a cop shoot an unarmed person in the head and see the brain matter splatter on his or her baby in the back seat and feel no empathy, but burst into tears when someone shows them a clip of a dog licking a soldier’s face when he comes home from killing brown people somewhere in the world protecting their freedom.

In fact, if you wrap a puppy in an American flag and put it on top of a pumpkin-spice gift certificate to Starbucks and tell a white woman you’re giving it to a soldier, she will spontaneously orgasm.

Real talk.*

*I don’t actually know what “real talk” means, but I know that—according to Section 3, paragraph 5 of the Uniform Negro Code—affixing “real talk” to the end of a sentence automatically makes it true.

Be Dead

One of the surest ways to engender respect from white people the unmelanated is to die. If you don’t feel like dying and have white-enough teeth, you can alternately outlive their vitriol and wait for them to embrace you.

Muhammad Ali was considered a traitor when he stood up for his rights and refused to fight in Vietnam. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were vilified. Gallup polling recounts Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorability this way:

In 1963, King had a 41 percent positive and a 37 percent negative rating; in 1964, it was 43 percent positive and 39 percent negative; in 1965, his rating was 45 percent positive and 45 percent negative; and in 1966—the last Gallup measure of King using this scalometer procedure—it was 32 percent positive and 63 percent negative.

Five months before the March on Washington, 60 percent of the country had a negative view of the event and 57 percent thought that peaceful sit-ins hurt the civil rights movement. Even a year later, in 1964, 73 percent of Americans believed “Negroes should stop mass demonstrations,” according to Gallup(pdf).

There has never been a movement for the freedom or equality of people of color that has gained white approval. Not the abolitionist movement. Not the anti-lynching movement. Not the Black Power movement. Not the civil rights struggle.

Looking for respectability and approval from white people will always be as fruitless a task as a chicken’s attempt to convince a fox to respect the boundaries of the henhouse.

In fact, historical, anecdotal and empirical evidence shows that there is only one way to protest without offending white people:


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