on August 29, lisa and i met up with a group of mostly white activists in a Black neighborhood where a white neighbor has been calling the police (and pulling other types of authorities into disputes with her neighbors). our intention was to ask this white woman, in a friendly and serious way, not to call the police on Black people.
we met early evening at the park down the street. a number of participants went around the block chalking hearts and names of Loved Ones Lost. we practiced our song at the park and a neighbor said yeah, sounds pretty good, you gotta get the timing right. we worked on that and then headed over to the white neighbor’s house. we sang our song a few times, and tried ringing her doorbell. a family next door stood on the steps watching us. the mom was holding back her little kids, keeping them on the porch. i waved and smiled, and she smiled. they seemed nervous but curious.
the white neighbor did not appear to be home. dogs were barking. we read aloud the names and stories of Black people who have been killed by police. we sent love. we sang the song a few more times. we put the song lyrics and some info about Oakland police shootings on her door, and just as we were wandering off down the street, the white neighbor lady came home. i was like ‘that’s her! that’s her! should we do it?’ we rallied back together and sang, and she at first seemed almost happy about it, she was like ‘i agree with you, but why me?’ that’s when lisa said ‘do you remember me?’ and she realized who we were there on behalf of.
it is intense to see a person being called on their shit yelling and screaming such predictable, scripted defenses, how she is such a good person, she gives food to homeless people, all her neighbors love her, her life was being threatened, not all cops come with their guns drawn, she doesn’t care if you’re black, white or chinese… etc. she also said their dog had almost bitten her arm completely off, in which case she is a miraculous healer because there were no scars or anything.
one of us very diligently and kindly kept trying to tell the white neighbor about mediation resources, as she stomped away, saying ‘who am i supposed to call? nobody comes to save me!’ several of us were calling ‘please! wait! listen! we’re coming from a place of love!’ and she slammed the door.
somewhere in the middle of all this, a conversation started with the neighbor next door on the porch with her kids, and it became known that she also was having problems with this particular white neighbor, that she is scared of her. a bilingual spanish speaker in our group stepped forward to talk with her and translate. it turns out the white lady reported this neighbor to her landlord for something having to do with her dogs, and an eviction process has been started. this neighbor was given the contact info for Causa Justa, and will be followed up with with more resources.
back at the park we debriefed. we felt good about it, a little rattled, but mostly positive. we talked about following up with the white neighbor, either in person or in a letter. a member of our group reminded us that this woman is dangerous to her brown and black neighbors, she is litigious, and we need to make sure not to make anything worse for them. two people offered to write a letter thanking the neighbor for hearing us, and offering resources for mediation and conflict resolution. we also talked about using our time and energy to support the neighbor who is facing possible eviction. members of this group will stay in contact with her to see what she needs.
i am sharing all of this because i want to talk more about how we call in difficult members of our communities. specifically i’m curious about how white people work with problematic white people, how do we ‘reel in our cousins’ ? and how do we stop violence before it happens?