If for some reason you ever need to see a picture-perfect example of the weaponization of white fragility, look no further than law enforcement in rural Wisconsin, where a local nonprofit organization that provides safety and shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence has drawn the scorn and rebuke of multiple police departments. Their egregious crime? Displaying Black Lives Matter signs in order to let communities of color know they are safe and welcome.
In what the Washington Post describes as “ an overwhelmingly White and conservative stretch of the state,” Embrace Services, Inc.—an organization that displays signs at their headquarters that prohibit guns, declare itself a “safe space,” and are welcoming toward the LGBTQ community—recently found out where white conservatives draw the line: They draw it at Black people’s right to give voice to our fight against systemic racism in America.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure the cops and other residents in
shit kicker rural Wisconsin had a tendency to cringe at all of Embrace’s displays of flagrant progressivism, but it was the displaying of Black Lives Matter signs that got law enforcement’s tighty-blueish-whities in such a bunch that they’re willing to literally cancel a nonprofit that, according to its website, “offers comprehensive services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence.”
From the Post:
Embrace executive director Katie Bement says she expected “tough conversations” but nothing like this: a parade of board resignations, the loss of $25,000 in funding, the end of valued partnerships with many police departments in the four counties where the nonprofit serves a population of about 90,000. Voters there in 2016 went decisively for President Trump, who has called the Black Lives Matter slogan a “symbol of hate.”
In one county, all five law enforcement agencies stopped referring victims to Embrace for help.
“It’s an abuse of power,” Bement said.
The problem here is (at least) twofold. First of all, I don’t care what corner of America you’re in, chances are there is a need for more resources available to survivors of domestic violence, not fewer. So by throwing a tantrum and cutting ties with Embrace, law enforcement officers in Wisconsin are allowing their massive-yet-brittle-as-fuck egos to potentially keep victims who are fleeing violence in harm’s way.
Secondly: For people who are so concerned about unfair propaganda being leveled at police officers, these people sure don’t seem to mind buying into and spreading propaganda against BLM. I find it interesting that the same people who decry all non-Fox News media as leftist “fake news” have no problem taking it at face value that BLM protests regularly turn violent based on what they see in the same media they claim they don’t believe. Then they choose to dismiss or ignore altogether the reports that show a strong majority of BLM protests have been peaceful. (Not that it really matters since we know that athletes silently kneeling during the America theme song is enough to draw pretty much the same ire from conservatives that riots do.)
Additionally, these hypocrites—which include y’all’s president who is one shit-tweet away from equating BLM to George Bush’s “axis of evil”—ignore the fact that victims of police killings aren’t the only ones represented in the movement. Ahmaud Arbery’s death is just as much part of the cause as George Floyd’s death. Trayvon Martin’s death is what started the momentum that eventually manifested the BLM movement.
Anyway, according to HuffPost, Bemet said she started receiving angry emails from local law enforcement over her support for BLM in September. Apparently, they didn’t like her response.
“If we want to end intimate partner violence and sexual violence, we must grapple with our country’s long history of racism, slavery, genocide, and colonization,” a letter posted to the organization’s Facebook page on Sept. 30, read. “We hope you will join us in breaking the cycle of trauma created by racism and violence.” Eight days later, Barron County voted to strip the organization of $25,000 in funding for 2021, the Post reports.
Embrace isn’t alone in its struggles against white fragility in positions of power. Shelters and service providers in multiple states have reported having the same issues.
As an emotional dialogue over police brutality and racial justice has roiled the nation, domestic violence agencies have found themselves in an uneasy position. Founded on anti-violence principles, many have felt compelled to reflect on the ways in which their historical reliance on the criminal justice system has excluded and even harmed some victims, especially people of color. In internal meetings and on private email lists, domestic violence advocates have embarked on soul-searching. A working group of national leaders has even been formed to discuss the issue.
But staking out a public position that might be perceived as anti-police can be perilous for domestic violence groups, who rely on partnerships with local law enforcement and often receive funding from criminal justice sources. Some have still chosen to do so. In June, 47 state and territorial coalitions against sexual assault and domestic violence signed a letter decrying the the consequences of centering police and prisons as the solution to violence and calling for greater investment in community resources.
At home, some of the signers faced backlash. In Nebraska, the Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence was contacted by the state Sheriffs’ Association, which requested that it remove the coalition’s name from the letter. It declined.
“Our organization has chosen to intentionally center our work with an anti-oppression lens, and to raise the voices of women of color,” said Lynne Lange, the coalition’s executive director. “We will not shy away from that now.”
In Idaho, the state Chiefs of Police Association, Sheriffs Association, and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association withdrew their support from the state’s coalition against sexual and domestic violence because it signed the letter, according to its executive director Kelly Miller.
“We wonder how these responses will support the healing and safety of people who experience violence?” she wrote in an email to HuffPost.
It’s sad but not surprising. In their desperation to protect their ever-eroding reputations as noble and heroic enforcers of the law, these officers could be taking resources away from some of the most vulnerable people they’re tasked with protecting.