In Response to the N.Y. Times Article: “On a Portland Train, the Battlefield of American Values”

I read this article and then looked to see if the N.Y. times had published an opinion that centered the target of the hate crimes. I looked because in this story, I knew that I, too, am a lot more likely to be the victim of the hate crime in such a story than the hero because of how I occupy space in the United States as a young, black, socially aware woman.

I was disappointed to find that there was no op-ed in the N.Y. Times to balance the praise of these men who were victims of the stabbing with concern for the victims of the psychologically damaging hate crime.

This is erasure that I am concerned about and this is why I am concerned about liberal whiteness; liberal white people still manage to center whiteness when the overarching story of xenophobia isn’t about white men, but about the victims of daily xenophobia.

The “Battlefield of American Values” is all of a sudden a battle-cry for the N.Y Times, in response to what allied white men have ought to have been doing to begin with. But ‘The Battlefield of American Values” was not brought up when black people fed kids free breakfast programs by the thousands. Instead, mainstream culture viewed these black heroes–The Black Panther Party–as terrorists, leaving the FBI to look for ways to destroy their reputation in attempts to criminalize them.

This “Battlefield of Values” is not brought up as being an American battlefield of values when Latin immigrants fight for their rights to seek safety and a future for themselves and their families.

Our survival and resistance as people on the margins, are those not American values? How is U.S. dominant culture re-creating and communicating white savior narratives through who it chooses to center when bad things happen to people on the margins. Xenophobia is never about white Americans, so why are white people centered in stories about xenophobia?

There is a time and a place to acknowledge allied heroes without centering them in a world that already centers the ally. That does not mean that we do not celebrate our allies. However, there is honor and heroism in the mundane, and daily survival of those on the margins, too. I would be less concerned about this opinion article if there was more equitable or balanced concern about the women victims themselves in mass media.

Please don’t hear that I am calling people to not celebrate the ways that these men had showed up alongside these young women. I was deeply encouraged to hear that three men got out of their comfort zone in the face of hostility as I personally experience more often that interventions like that which these three men took are actually not a reflection of the American norm, but an exception to the rule.

How can white people celebrate the good actions of those coming alongside the targets of xenophobia without centering them? How can white self-professed allies walk this fine line of not painting white people as the heroes of history? How do white folks ignore the everyday heroism of those who survive in the face of hostility and invisibility everyday, and how can white people cease to ignore these acts without fetishizing black and brown resilience? These are the tough questions I want white folks to ask themselves.

But of course.  Everyday survival of those marginalized by the state and culture of the United States of America is not an American value, because the allied (those who are not disenfranchised) do not have to worry about surviving white supremacy and xenophobia. Consequently, marginalized people are not see as real Americans, and therefore not representative of American values. At least this is the narrative that has been subtlety communicated to me (and to many people of color) this week with the erasure of the black and Muslim women themselves. The allied have the corner on American values, because the allied are the real Americans. The allied are the center of the American story.

I am saddened that many folks did not see the girls as actual victims until the man who survived the stabbing named it as that, when he got well enough to finally say to America, “Destiny and Dyjuana are victims, too”.

Why is truth only truth when it comes out of a white man’s mouth? Why is it not truth when black women say it? Why are women of color simply dismissed as heartless “feminist killjoys?” for voicing the inequity of concern surrounding this incident?

Because white supremacy does not belong only to “the mean, heartless conservatives”, but also to the everyday, well intended white people who do not see the narratives of people of color and those on the margins as existing on the battlefield of American values. Our struggles as persons on the margins are simply relegated to exist as details to the stories of the “true heroes” of history: white men.


Please support Destiny and Dyjuana by donating and sharing this campaign. You can do so by donating here, which has been confirmed to be the real campaign that will serve these two young women.

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