You may have noticed your Facebook friends “checking in” at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. No, they didn’t all plan a trip without you, and if you’re lost, go read this CNN article to get caught up and come back. Given this development, and the stark difference between the treatment of Standing Rock protestors and Ammon Bundy and Co., we’re going to revisit the idea of White Privilege as it pertains to protesting. Or in this case, occupying land.
As a brief re-cap of the situation, you’ve got Native American protestors in Standing Rock, North Dakota fighting against the construction of an oil pipeline and you’ve got a group of armed White people (all but one of which are men) who took over a federal building in Malheur, Oregon last winter. In Standing Rock, you have 142 arrests of protestors with accounts of police violence, on the other, you have a group of folks who engaged in a 41-day standoff being acquitted in their first trial. When news broke of the acquittals, many people, including Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, former vice president Al Gore, and actress Shailene Woodley took to Twitter in support of the Standing Rock protestors.
The details of the acquittals are worth reading–like really, vitally worth reading to understand exactly why Bundy and his buddies were let off the hook. The key piece is that the jury didn’t feel as though the prosecution proved there was conspiracy to stop federal employees from doing their job–as if the take over could have been anything else.
White privilege is these armed people taking over a federal building, engaging in a shootout with police, and living to tell the tale. For them to be acquitted is unbelievable. I’m not advocating for police to kill anyone–that’s not safe or healthy for anyone, police included–but these people engaged in a shootout with the police and lived, while unarmed Black people are killed by the police regularly? I rarely agree with Jill Stein on anything but for once, she’s right: this is unacceptable.