From the San Francisco Chronicle:
White voices dominate Bay Area protests of racial inequality
By Kevin Fagan and Vivian Ho Updated 8:15 am, Saturday, December 13,
The issue of black inequality has been front and center in the national dialogue for weeks as protests rolled out nightly, but now the conflict has ignited in the heart of the protest movement itself.
With each new demonstration against the killings of unarmed black men by white police in Missouri and New York, questions — and in many cases, objections — proliferate about the role of white voices in a movement that centers on African Americans’ grievances.
The issue arose out of protests in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco where, night after night, there were more whites than blacks. Some black leaders say they are spending their energy organizing for action away from the streets. Others believe some African Americans are afraid to participate in protests in which small fringe mobs turn violent — putting black people in danger of the very thing they’re protesting, attacks by police.
“There are people who would like to participate, but they feel co-opted and don’t want to be aligned with the vandalism and with people throwing things at the police,” said Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, a black community leader who has participated in numerous social movements over the years. “It’s a small number that causes the trouble at the protests, but we just don’t know how to overcome that. The same issue co-opted the Occupy movement.” …
The sentiment was forcefully articulated in a widely distributed Tumblr post this week in which an unnamed, apparently African American poster wrote: “Dear white protesters, this is NOT about you,” and urged whites to “hand over the bullhorn to a Black person (because your voice doesn’t need a bullhorn to be heard …).”
And it erupted Tuesday on the steps of Old City Hall in Berkeley, when City Councilman Kriss Worthington, who is white, was repeatedly interrupted as he denounced aggressive police before a crowd of protesters.
“Let a black person talk!” one yelled. “We’ve heard from enough Caucasian men!” yelled another. Worthington handed the mike over to Councilman Jesse Arreguin, who is Latino — and after similar heckling, the megaphone was passed to a black UC Berkeley student who was warmly welcomed.
The exchanges during marches have been even sharper at times. One night in Oakland, African Americans staged an alternative demonstration to avoid “march-jacking” by mostly white megaphone-wielders.
“We’re all trying to make sure the white guys with megaphones don’t take over the whole conversation,” said Eileen Santos, 37, a Filipino resident of Berkeley who has been to several marches. “We’re having more brown and black voices, and that’s good.” …
The conflict has been most visible with clashes between predominantly young white vandals and black people who try to stop them. Several times in Oakland and Berkeley, African American residents have run out of their houses to yell at white vandals who split away from protests to burn and smash things in the street.
“I cannot stand the spoiled, white privileged kids in masks — and yes, that’s what most of them look like — trying to take over the message by destroying things,” said Moni Law, 54, a housing counselor who lives in Berkeley. She and other black demonstrators have blocked groups from breaking windows at several marches, as have white activists.