Sunday, April 24, 2016

Real Life Story: Trying to Be an Ally #11/30

Pardon the formatting. I cut/pasted this from a FB post I made that seem to resonate with a lot of people, shared many times. I share it here, again, not to be the hero of the piece, but merely to show how easy it is to try and be an ally to POC (and not just appoint yourself the title) and also, just how mundane and common systemic racism really is.

"So, earlier today, a group of young black women (teens maybe?) knocked on my door and said "Hi, we're a group of kids that have rented out the space next door. We're going to have a party and wanted to say we might get a little loud if that's ok. We won't be here later than midnight."
Very appreciated. I've lived here for over two years and no-one has ever, ever politely informed me (or anyone) of their presence beforehand. And they were hardly that loud, even when groups of them were hanging outside. There have been heavy rock shows there that were much louder, with drinking outside (and bottles left on the lawn of my building) and none of them ever went around, introducing themselves to local residents as a courtesy.

I'm surprised later (and probably shouldn't have been, after all these kids were CLEARLY GWY&B-ing* (Gathering While Young & Black) all over the place they rented legally), when I see police cars show up. I see the young woman outside, talking to two cops who were acting as if they'd never seen the Mediator before. "Do you have permission to be here? You seem kind of young to sign a rental agreement. Is this an abandoned building? Is there electricity and running water in there?" You could tell he was kind of playing with her and/or trying to get her to blurt out enough info so he could have cause to shut the party down. He looked like he'd put in some years in the police force, so his claim that "I thought this place was abandoned" was pretty suspect as, The Mediator Stage is rented out nearly every night and a few times during the week (Also available for function rentals and I hear it's cheap. Guy who owns it is a nice guy. So... shout out to The Mediator Stage (who were not there and had nothing to do with this story, save renting the hall to the people.)
So, I go outside and say, "Officers, these fine youth actually went door-to-door earlier today, politely informing us of their party. This building is rented out frequently for a number of uses, among them open mic nights and a regular Sunday morning worship group. This is actually a Unitarian Congregation, and they are registered, as is the building, with the Unitarian Universalist Association, in Boston, MA."
Afterwards, I gave the woman my name and number and told her to call me if she needed a witness to that interaction, or if the police arrived again.
Later, when the night was over and youth were waiting for their rides, I heard some of them yelling at others "Get off those steps! You don't know those people!" so I went down and told them I lived there, and they were welcome to wait there, out of the rain. I understood their caution, but I was stating they were welcome to wait there, and if anyone asked, they could knock on the door, I'd be up for a while.
All this is not about me being the hero. I'm saying that it took so little to see something not right was about to happen and no real effort to help, and when I took the cops' attention away from her and other organizers (and where their line of questioning might be going) it was nice to be able to use a little of my white privilege to confound the system. Organic Judo, whatever.
But do you see America, how easy it is to be ok with each other?
So easy, a crippled old white dude can do it.

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