Yes, I know…You’ve heard a lot about the divide between the “peaceful protesters” and the looters. And the looters are the PROBLEM, right? You watch mainstream media long enough and you’d think the guy stealing the dog food from the Petco is ten times worse than Cruella de Vil. White dudes were on Twitter explaining Martin Luther King Jr's disdain of such things. . . to MLK's sons and daughters. (Whitesplaining gets SO AWKWARD, y'all.) But as much as I appreciate Dr. King -- especially that “Beyond Vietnam,” “Poor People’s Campaign” Dr. King that lives beyond the two soundbites they play every winter -- you deserve to know what they forgot to mention (and what the Reverend Doctor knew so well): Direct Action gets the goods.
What’s the plan, you wonder? You don’t so much need a plan when you are looting. Mostly, you need a target, a destination, a goal. And our goal is simple: We need to snatch and grab every single meaningful change we can from any and all institutions we are connected to. Now. “What institutions?” you ask? Where you work. Any organization you attend, give your money or your time to. Your alma mater. Your kids’ alma mater. The companies you buy from. Your mosque/church/synagogue. When you think on it, there are SO MANY. So, go ahead, think on it.
We need to snatch and grab every single meaningful change we can from any and all institutions we are connected to. Now.
The closer your connection, the more you can try to snatch. Don’t restrict yourself to looting from one location. Who does that? Diversify that looting portfolio, and reap the dividends.
Okay, okay…let me clarify. The grab and go life ain’t for everybody. If you can’t afford to catch a case, you might have to fall back. Don’t make a move in your workplace if your position is insecure and they are planning layoffs. You have the right to keep that day job safe — there is no shame in that. (Plus, we need folks to donate to these bail funds and community organizations, remember?) YES, I know that the change we are looking for is not going to happen overnight. And I also know that some of y'all are already doing the most with the least. (Namaste, y'all. Take a rest and remember that Black joy is a form of resistance...) But for those ready to give looting a try, know that there are LOTS of institutions to choose from, and just adjust these tips accordingly based on your relationship to the target. Also, if looting teaches us nothing else, it reminds us of the power in numbers. Find a friend (or forty) and let’s get what we came for. . .
I know, I know...you have already been through so much. #BlackAtWork is a THING, you look at your paycheck and part of you is pissed that your workplace feels like a constant stream of microagressions and yet you gotta pay for your Headspace and TalkSpace subscriptions out of your own pocket. But you don’t talk about that much because you know it is all such a privilege compared to what other people are going through. But it’s hard.
A picture is worth a thousand words. And if you have a thousand words inside you for every image of injustice, you ask yourself what is a thousand times a thousand, and then you ask yourself if there is even any point to doing this math… What does it matter how many words you have, if you feel you can’t say them or you don’t believe anyone is really listening? Sometimes you try to forget that all the words are there, because it all feels like TOO DAMN MUCH.
But It’s true: Your white colleagues never seem to understand what you are going through. Remember those nights you watched cable news and reflected on what made the anchors think it was okay to play videos of Black bodies twisted in pain on repeat in the background? Remember the times you cried because you clicked on that hashtag and found out what happened to that sista or brother? You were on Twitter and it felt like a river of blood flowed through your timeline, despite the fact the videos don’t autoplay anymore…and you felt bad because for just a minute you couldn’t remember which senseless tragedy was which. (The cities and stories are all so different, but they are also all the same. You remember the names, and speak of those who were killed in conversation as if you are related, because you are. You only remember their faces as they appeared in the photos shared by the families, because sometimes in the videos made of their lynchings, you felt compelled to look away.)
You think I’m just stressed. That I’m not handling the whole “tumbling into next-level dystopia” thing very well. I’m not here to lie to you, that might be true. (Can you blame me?!) But you don’t have to take my word for it. The Bible — that book that managed not to burst into flames when held by Donald Trump the other day — says there is no new thing under the sun. Look it up. (I’m queer — trust me, LOOK IT UP…because people tell you that stuff is in the Bible that they just saw on a bumper sticker. Real talk.)
Nothing new under the sun. For everything there is a season. And this is the snatching season. You know that you would not be the first to take everything you can get in the midst of a crisis. (Yes, that dude really was running down the street with a cheesecake in Seattle.) But the looting has never been restricted to the strip malls. Listen: I’ve noticed that sometimes -- just sometimes -- a statement made by a Black person somehow carries more weight when folks hear that same statement coming from a white person, so you should go read Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. You’ll see. Nah, strike that. You ain’t got no time for reading right now…we gotta get what we came for. Read up on the theory later.
Just trust me when I say that even though you are new to the game, other folks have been down this road before. It’s a THING. But too often the people doing the looting are not on our side. But trust and believe that their goody bags are FULL. The flood waters breached the levees in New Orleans and those looters came in and snatched away a whole entire public school system! Like the ENTIRE THING, yo! Public housing? Looters rolled in, replaced thousands of affordable apartments with a handful of pastel colored duplexes and lottery tickets — I mean, Section 8 vouchers — and called it a day! Quick as a flash!
And as that corrupt Chicago politician with no love for Black folks once said…Oh, wait…I need to be more specific… As the corrupt Chicago politician with no love for Black people that worked for OBAMA —Rahm Emmanuel — once said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” Rahm has spoken! (And If you are going to listen to something he says, this is your best bet!)
Looters know that time is precious. So you know what you don’t wanna do right now? Don’t accept ANY listening sessions, roundtables, presentations, conferences or committee formation as a substitute for real change in the organization. Why not? Come on, in the words of the African-American philosopher Big Freedia, “YOU ALREADY KNOOOOOW!” That’s just a hustle…don’t fall for the okey-doke, people! They know the clock is ticking. We are LOOTERS, damnit, We ain’t waiting around for cops (or committees).
But beyond what you already know, and maybe more to the point, is that THEY already know…know what to do, that is. That shit is already probably WRITTEN DOWN somewhere. More than once. The first version might be in some elderly secretary’s files, the most recent version is in some file on the boss’ Google drive. They used the money from the raise they didn’t give you to pay the consultant they hired to lay out all their “diversity/ equity/ inclusion/ social justice/ inclusive excellence” goals for them. Remember the #BlackLivesMatter protest led by the students at Mizzou (The University of Missouri)? They didn’t have to take the time to come up with a full list of demands, the boycotts and hunger strike were in part to push the administration to fulfill the demands of the Black students who protested there back in 1969! But if you have suggestions, that’s cool, we can use those later.
Even if the PR folks got your target talking about “structural racism” and “oppression” in that statement they put on Twitter, that doesn’t mean they are gonna offer up the keys to the kingdom. They talk a good game but still expect folks asking for change to roll up like Oliver Twist asking for porridge. Save that incrementalism for some moment where Native Americans ain’t fancy dancing in the street around a fallen Christopher Columbus statue. Go big or go home! You gotta grab A LOT as you run to the door, because you know you are gonna drop a bunch along the way, and you gotta make it all worth your while.
If you missed the moment, that’s a bummer. The Germans have a word -- treppenwitz -- for when you figure out the clever thing to say after the moment has passed. That’s rough. But here’s the thing. You will get another chance to shoot your shot. It’s like that line in the J Lo movie, “Enough:” “As sure as he is a coward, he will try to kick you…” There WILL be another disaster informed by the racial injustices of this nation. Of this there can be no doubt. And even if you doubt that — or can’t bear to think about it right now — you know there will be some racial mess WITHIN your organization soon enough, YOU KNOW THIS.