To the HRC and Greenpeace and all the other nonprofits canvassing downtown Oakland as the protests galvanize and gridlock a city at the forefront of the fight against unchecked violence:
I don't expect the underpaid, overworked college students you dispatch into our communities to appreciate the inappropriateness of shoving a clipboard at people who may have witnessed police action the night before—not when they are paid so little and depend on donor quotas to bring the yield of their labors above minimum wage.
You count on this, to a point; you hope my annoyance can be directed at the woman who chases me down the block to talk about gays in the military, or the man who catcalls me for being trans when I eschew his spiel on deforestation, rather than at you, counting your beans in the back room of a celebrity gala, putting pressure on a generation of desperate youth to heckle and harass a populace worked half to death, who want to fight the system but may not have the energy or know-how, who give you money in the hopes it can take their place.
I yell at the canvasser, I complain on your Facebook page, you shuffle and rotate. New faces on the same old street corners. You'll get it right eventually.
Your long con cowardice is a slow burn.
Or maybe this is an abundance of credit. You aren't afraid to be in Oakland—you just don't care.
The vulnerability of queer people of color to police violence is not beyond you; you have in recent years come to embrace violence against brown people, part and parcel to your brands, offering gay soldiers to fight the middle eastern menace and abetting the poverty of African nations through a hardline environmentalist agenda.
Oakland is necessary ground: Since its "peaceful disbursement" of Occupy, OPD has been a pioneer in police militarization. A national disarming of unchecked police violence against people of color must include a successful stand against the Oakland Police Department.
And you know what? It's working. On Saturday, thousands marched from downtown Oakland to the courthouse by Lake Merritt. Crowds of focused faces listened to impassioned speeches from black women, including Oscar Grant's mother, mourning the mothers, sons, daughters, fathers and others lost. They called on a nation to stand up and in between the armed killers who know not consequences for the families they tear apart and the black bodies they come to take.
Earlier today, white allies, chained together, blocked off Broadway street in front of the OPD building, while Asian allies chained themselves to the flagpole. The OPD building was shut down for four and a half hours—four hours and 28 minutes to be exact. In freezing rain.
And it has been hard for me to find my fit—I do not hold signs, I do not help tear down the fences leading to freeways. Though I want to. Instead I do what is actually needed of me—I take pictures, I live-tweet, I witness and observe.
I still get shot at by police, but I am comfortable with the space I'm taking up; more importantly, black protesters are comfortable with the space I'm taking up.
So I move through the crowds. I take pictures. I talk shop about Sharpie technique. And all the while, I'm looking out for you; for the people involved with HRC and Greenpace. And you are nowhere to be found. As black activists are actively actually saving the world.
Women of color built the modern LGBT movement, and you took it from them, to sell tacky bumper stickers. They made the world safer for you; you blamed them for the passing of Prop 8.
Black folk were brought to this country and made to raise our children, cook our food, do our laundry. We sent them to fight in our wars while they were expected to drink from separate water fountains, to sit in the back of the bus.
They made the world safer for you; you repurposed their adaptations under capitalism into "living green/sustainable" as your political efforts hold down the developing world.
And now, in pouring rain, with the fear of spending the holidays in a jail cell, black activists are holding police accountable, blocking trains and shutting down the streets to remind those same police who account for so much of the hate violence against LGBT folk that they are not masters, but servants.
They are making the world safer for you; you send in your shiny happy drones to collect donations the morning after, nickel and diming a city under cover of plywood.
This will be lost to your canvassers, so I will say this to you, directly.
You are not needed in Oakland. The radical black organizers of the largest civil rights action since the Montgomery bus boycotts are making the world safer, for themselves and, in turn, for us all--without and in spite of your complete and thorough apathy to their plight.
As a child watching westerns in Germany, I doubted somewhat the veracity of entire towns clearing out in anticipation of the dragdown brouhaha.
I now have seen this scene repeated, in realtime, for two weeks—a thriving downtown hurriedly desolate before sundown. In the movies, this is always played up for fear. Oh look at all these chickenshit townfolk who don't want to get their feet wet.
I know, now, that 1) fear is a pretty rational response to a militarized police that tear gasses the freeway and pulls guns on people filming them, and 2) this helps demarcate the sides of a conflict and prevents "crossfire."
When there is pushback, the police do not discern between protester and anyone else. Journalists. Medics. Legal observers. Everyone not police is the enemy.
Every time you send canvassers into the site of conflict, you endanger them—if not physically, then emotionally, psychologically. And it will have been for nothing because you can't be bothered to risk the loss of a single donor in standing up for marginalized people.
This isn't a fight you are willing to take part in.
So perhaps you should stay out until it's over.
(And if you didn't come back at all ever it would not be the worst thing.)