blm philly did not “ban white people from its meetings” but created necessary “black only spaces”

April 4, 2017

On April 15th, the Philadelphia chapter of Black Lives Matter will be hosting its next open meeting to discuss their 2017 projects and activities. Billed as “A Black Only Space,” the event predictably set off a firestorm of controversy once that detail was picked up by right wing media groups:

It’s laughable to think of Daily Caller readers being genuinely pissed they weren’t invited to a BLM meeting, but some white “allies” expressed their dismay as well. A self-described “19-year-old Caucasian female” penned an essay titled “Why Can’t I Join You? An Op-ed From A Non Black #BLM Supporter” in response to the event, in which she argued that “it seems wrong to start a movement but then excludes half of the people who have been supporting you this far in the game, and drop us at a point where we are all recognizing that there is a lot more work to be done.” Recognizing the work to be done, indeed.

It’s telling that she believes white people make up half of the fight for Black liberation. Clearly she’s never actually been to a BLM meeting, or read any studies about who supports this movement and who is against it, lending to her already inflated sense of importance. It’s also telling how “Black only” became “no whites” in these anti-BLM narratives. Obviously, non-Black people of color exist, but when you’re a white person who is so used to being centered that’s easy to miss. But it’s the most telling that these people interpret the creation of a Black only space to mean there is nothing else they can do to help the cause. BLM Philly made it clear that there were other ways to support than taking up space, but because garnering attention and pats on the back is all a lot of “allies” are in this work for, other ways to lend a hand may as well not exist.

Just yesterday, I wrote about how white “allies” who claim to be fighting for Black liberation are often more interested in receiving appreciation and being centered than in actually doing the work, and this is case-in-point. If you claim to want to help someone, and they explain to you that your presence is unhelpful and there are better ways to assist, yet you insist on doing it your way, you’re not truly interested in their cause at all. This just goes to show how necessary it is to have Black only spaces in the first place, as it is clear that many “allies” cannot look past their own bubble far enough not to get in the way of what needs to be done.

*Hari Ziyad is a New York based storyteller and writer for AFROPUNK. They are also the editor-in-chief of RaceBaitR, deputy editor of Black Youth Project, and assistant editor of Vinyl Poetry & Prose. You can follow them on Twitter @hariziyad.