Opting In

July 15, 2016
Photo by GLEN STUBBE of the Star Tribune

I posted bail on Monday night, along with 45 other people who had come together with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis to challenge the status quo, to love each other, link arms, and sing and stand for justice for Philando and his family and all Black lives.

We were let out of Ramsey County's Adult Detention Center to a bunch of reporters and several elected officials who were calling us rioters or passing our mugshots around social media. Except that what I'd just been a part of, what I'd just done, was stand in solidarity with some incredibly powerful and courageous people who came together in an effort to help get our Black family a little closer to being free.

We didn't riot. We volunteered to be arrested. We linked our arms together. We put our fists in the air. We were peaceful, we were cooperative, we were nonviolent, and then we got arrested and placed on the first bus and taken to Ramsey County.

When we arrived at the station, officers began writing citations. Someone got a call that things had escalated, the citation writing stopped, and we were suddenly booked, and then placed on lockdown for 24 hours, unable to talk to anyone with no access to what was happening or what had changed.

Being a light-skinned, non-Black person of color, an Executive Director of a national organization, and a queer woman with enormous community support, I was very clear with myself about going into this march with all of these perspectives and identities and privileges. I was further clear about why what I've been doing up until now hadn't and hasn't been enough.

I can't keep watching black organizers, activists, and community members fight for their lives through grief and pain and believe that handing out a few bucks or posting something on social media is enough. They took one look at me in jail and decided I was white - it's on my bracelet, it's how they labeled me after arresting me. This is what passing means. This is what privilege means. I don't get followed in stores. I don't get pulled over.  And as a non-Muslim immigrant woman from Iran, I don't even get profiled at airports.

I thought about the risks and how I've been able to opt out all of my life. This privilege also means I can opt in. I can be arrested. No one joined this march to harm anybody. We were there because we couldn't let this be business as usual. Opting in means I will use my own identity, privilege, and position to fight for Black lives and take actions that are rooted in the importance of people feeling and exercising their own power, actions that are critical to building the endurance and muscle of our movement and work that will get us closer to realizing the vision we do want for this world: one that is free of police violence and presence in our communities, and where all of our communities have access to jobs, education, healthcare and the ability to not just survive but to thrive.

This commitment isn't just about my individual act; it's one I can and will continue to bring into the work that I do personally, professionally, with my family, and with my community. It's time for action. It's time to name what we want and to build it. To my other organizational leaders, to my other non-Black People of Color, I invite you to opt in with me.

Photo by Glen Stubbe of the Star Tribune