For me, this past week has been a time of deep meditative reflection. I have to say, I’m utterly shocked by the events unfolding in Ferguson. It’s hard to believe that this is 2014 and these are images of the world we live in. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 50 years since the FBI murdered MLK Jr, and we’re still seeing violence doled out upon the black community by a racist state, despite the fact that we have a black president and so much more awareness of the nuances of systemic oppression.
Anyone intimately familiar with the privilege hierarchy (like myself) knows that white women and black men share a common rung just below homosexual white men, and therefore, white women understand the pressure that black males face better than anyone else – including black women. That’s why the murder of Mike Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson, and the subsequent militaristic tactics of the local police department to suppress outcry and protest from the black community, hit extremely close to home for me as a white woman.
It hit even closer to home for me, personally, because a couple of years ago, I had my own “Mike Brown shooting.” That is to say, I was dumped. Tossed aside, and not just by any man, but by a police officer – for no reason other than he got tired of me. I didn’t cheat on him. I didn’t belittle him. I didn’t even take money out of his wallet more than five or six times. He just wasn’t interested anymore. I was worthless to him. What’s worse is that as a police officer, he was untouchable. I couldn’t damage his property or attack him. The police would just believe his side of the story. I felt powerless. I felt black.
So, I did what any white woman would do in that situation. I shopped. I shopped till I dropped.
Shoes. Purses. Cell phone accessories. Those jewels you glue to your pussy. Other stuff that you’re not supposed to glue to your pussy that I glued to my pussy anyways. You name it, I bought it. Why? Because buying products and having more things makes you feel better about yourself. You get to affix an actual number to your relative worthlessness – a price tag. You get to elevate your personal worth in a very tangible way when, really, you know the cold hard truth: you know that you’re something that society is trying to get rid of. You’re a financial and cultural burden. You’re disposable.
Shopping is one of the few forms of protest we white women have. When we buy a pair of shoes, it doesn’t come from a place of vanity or materialistic superficiality; it’s a deeply spiritual and rebellious act of dissent. We’re fighting back against a system that tells us that we need to be beautiful. We’re spitting in the face of a patriarchal machine that wants to reduce us to objects. And we’re doing it by buying makeups and all kinds of accessories. We’re violently asserting our identity by trying to look like the pretty women on TV.
That’s why I completely understand the looting. Hell, I’d steal too if I had the courage. Can’t we all stop pretending like we don’t constantly want to steal but we’re afraid of the consequences?
When these men loot, they’re telling a world that disvalues them that they disvalue the world. It’s a bold political statement, and it’s also a great way to get a brand new Xbox or television to show your friends how well you’re doing these days. It’s a way to become someone who has an Xbox, even though society says you’re not supposed to have an Xbox.
I’m going out this week, and I’m shopping. I’m shopping in solidarity. I’m shopping in protest. I’m shopping because I want to show my support for the people who lack the ability to shop for themselves. I’m shopping for the looters, and as I try on shoes, I’ll remember that we didn’t choose to be born into a system that conflates needs and wants – a system that masks the edifice of true power with the ornate façade of showy materialism. We didn’t choose a world where we need products to feel complete – we can only choose to perpetuate it, and for that, I shop. I shop in the hope that one day, future generations will not need to shop, or loot, or want. I shop because the system is broken, but also because I like things and I like to have them.