Top, photograph by Judith Joy Ross, Untitled, from Portraits at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington D.C., 1984. Via. More. Bottom, photograph by Gökşin Sipahioğlu, Untitled, from May 1968 riots, Paris. Via. More.
During two years of protest reporting, I have watched white, middle-class liberals on both sides of the Atlantic realizing with wide-eyed shock, at the first wallop from a police baton, that whoever you are, the state and its agents are to be feared when you step out of line. They are to be feared whatever your colour, even if all you wanted to do was dance around and waggle some placards. The horror that police might treat young white protesters the way they have been treating young black people for years has been with this protest movement from the start. Whilst the killing of young black boys is rarely news in North America, when young white women were kettled and pepper-sprayed by the police during the first days of Occupy Wall Street their tear-smeared faces made headlines across the world.
The learning curve of white privilege is steep, especially for those who weren’t aware that they had it. Whereas six months ago, white activists were shouting that police were part of the 99% and encouraging their fellow occupiers to welcome law enforcement into the protest camps, the chant today is: “police are the army of the rich!”
Laurie Penny, America learns it cannot ignore race and class on the Million Hoodie March, for The Independent, March 2012.
II appreciate the pointer to the Penny story. But I am troubled by the juxtaposition of these photos, and the implication that white protestors are now experiencing police brutality at the level that POC have for centuries.