It was 2 a.m. and Mandy felt like a spider backed into a corner about to strike. She sprang from her bed, snatched her black smart-phone from her desk and opened a chat room called Gather and Resist.
The posts were fast and furious—sadness for Hillary Clinton's loss, skepticism that the vote was fair, encouragement and love, resolve to keep fighting and lots of anger directed at Donald Trump. Mandy clicked on Empower2, the handle for her best friend Janet. A private chat screen popped open.
Can't sleep... Mandy typed.
No one can. Are you okay?
I know. It's horrible. But we'll find a way to fight back.
Let's do it tonight.
I have a plan. Meet me at Pioneer's Square in downtown Portland.
See you in thirty minutes.
Mandy took the Max train from East Gresham to Downtown Portland. At Pioneer’s Square, rowdy protesters wearing bandannas over their faces threw rocks and bricks at cars and buildings. SWAT officers ran over to intervene. Helicopters circled over-head, thrashing the wind. Mandy caught Janet's anxious glance near the old Pioneer Courthouse fence and rushed over to her.
Janet, a small framed African-American woman, leaned nervously against the rickety metal barrier that surrounded the aging gray stone courthouse. Her eyes darted left and right until she caught sight of Mandy. She wore tight brown jeans that clung to her body, outlining her slender frame and a Black Lives Matter sweater. She tied her thick, long black hair in a pink rubber band that allowed her dark curls to cascade down her back, giving her a youthful appearance despite her 35 years. Janet clenched her arms around herself. “Didn't expect to see them tonight,” she said, eyes trained on the officers pushing their way through the crowd.
“Reminds me of some of the civil rights protests my mom went to,” Mandy said, a memory of charred bodies flashed through her mind.
“That's right, you've seen this before.”
“One major difference, through.” Mandy pointed to a group of three girls posing for selfies. “Everyone here is white.”
Janet batted her eyes and surveyed the crowd in disbelief. “Holy shit, you're right! Well, this is Portland.”
“Still, this ain't right.”
“Are we gonna march with them?”
Mandy shook her head. Then a frantic reporter nearly knocked Mandy over as she rushed to set up for an NBC News live broadcast. A twenty-something white girl dressed in pink stood ready to be interviewed, a trickle of blood running down her face.
“Three, two, one... Live!”
“We're here live in Pioneer Square where police conflicts with protesters have been escalating all night. We have Jamie Harris here who suffered a cut above her right eye. What happened, Jaime?”
“We were marching and suddenly this rock hit me in the face. I fell down, but I think I'm okay.”
“You're not going to the hospital?”
“We came here to show the world how mad we are that a sexist pig like Trump is now our President. A little blood will not stop me!”
Her friends cheered in the background.
Mandy scoffed and then walked in front of Jaime, startling the reporter. Janet pulled out her phone.
“Pardon me, but I have something to say,” Mandy said. She glared at the white girl who took a couple steps back while her friends scowled at Mandy in the background. The reporter gave an uncomfortable glance to the older black woman with curly salt and pepper hair.
Mandy's blue jeans and green Portland State University t-shirt suggested that there was nothing out of the ordinary about her, but her intense brown eyes looked at people like she could cut straight through their bullshit. While others on the crowded street looked apprehensive and nervous in the building chaos, Mandy stood solid and confident, determined to speak her mind. The reporter exchanged glances with her producer, who gave her a hesitant nod. “Go ahead.”
Mandy peered into the lens and projected her powerful voice. “The problem isn't Trump, the problem is white. This is a white society with a white government fueled by white special interests in a system built by and for white people, rooted in white supremacy. What you all are doing here doesn't matter! Nothing will change until the whole system changes and that will take a lot more than this protest. It'll take a movement. Look around you! Every building, every car, every bank, every street sign, every stitch of clothing people are wearing are part of the Military Industrial Complex. And at the top is a ruling class of white Christian men pushing nationalism and globalism on all of us until they control every last thing.”
The reporter took a stressed breath. “Thank you for that perspective. What's your name, ma'am?”
Just then a tear gas capsule exploded about a half-block away. The camera cut to a group of people running away.
The reporter took off. Mandy and Jaime exchanged awkward glances, then Janet ran over. “I recorded it like you said and posted it on You Tube!”
Mandy grinned. “Let's get out of here.”
Two hours later, they were back in Mandy's tiny studio apartment which was cluttered with books, unfinished papers, and stacks of laundry waiting to be put away. Mandy and Janet stared at Mandy's YouTube channel in disbelief.
“100,000 views!” Janet exclaimed.
“It's working. Standing up to a white girl got people's attention.”
“No kidding. Look at all these comments!”
Mandy scanned them. “Well, some are nice anyway.”
“DarcyM” popped up on Mandy's computer with a chat invite: Is Mandy there? Can I chat with her?
“Should I click on it?” Janet asked Mandy, who shrugged.
Janet accepted and wrote: This is Mandy.
DarcyM wrote: I saw your video and I wanted to say I wholeheartedly disagree with you! I grew up in a trailer here in Louisiana and we had many days where we ate nothing but a potato for dinner. You make it sound like things are so easy for white people. It's not a white system. It's survival of the fittest, the way it should be.
Mandy tensed, grabbed the mouse, then wrote back: Has anyone ever denied you access to your voting precinct? Have you ever been pulled over by the police for no reason and charged with crimes you didn't commit? Have you ever lived in a neighborhood where people didn't want you there and harassed you because of the color of your skin?
No. But nobody has given me anything, either. I had to work minimum wage jobs to put myself through school.
And yet here you are getting by. Not in jail. An entire world of possibilities in front of you. They have arrested me seven times fighting for my rights.
You make it sound like violence is the answer. You guys fighting on the streets are no better than terrorists. That's one thing I like about Trump, he's for law and order. You guys throw a tantrum because your candidate lost and suddenly you think our whole society should change. I even heard people calling for Oregon to secede from the union! Hello? This is the United States of America and I, for one, am a proud white American!
Mandy began furiously typing back. Janet placed her hand on her friend’s shoulder. “It's not worth it.”
Mandy caught herself, erased choice words and typed: It's not easy for a white woman to understand white privilege.
She ended the chat.
“At least she was polite,” Janet commented.
“Yes, polite, but completely out of touch.” Mandy rubbed her chin, lost in her thoughts for a moment. Then she said, “I want to go to Harahan, Louisiana.”
“Harahan?“ Janet asked incredulously. “Why on Earth would you go there?”
“Because it‘s the whitest town in America and it‘s close to where the largest slave revolt in US history happened. People will listen to me there and I have a lot more to say.“
Janet rubbed her temples. “How?”
“We're going to have to raise money. Connect with your Black Lives Matter chapter and others across the US and get their help. We'll have to promote my video. Make more videos. Make sure everyone in the media knows what we're doing.”
Janet stared at Mandy. “You're serious about this?”
“You know I am. Ever since white men bombed MOVE headquarters and blew up my mother with cluster bombs, I've been working on this plan. They have enslaved our people. Tortured us. Denied us our basic human and civil rights. And now they've elected Trump as President! Enough is enough! We're going to introduce the world to Oya and destroy this white power system forever!”