He Wore a Shirt with Her Nonprofit's Name to Harass a Woman.
Black affordable housing advocate, 82, calls out "the bad lemons in the bunch."
“White silence is violence!” a marauding horde of young people shouted as they stopped at a sidewalk cafe on 18th Street NW in the Adam’s Morgan neighborhood of the nation’s capital, screaming expletives and demands that white people pump their fists in the air to prove they oppose “white supremacy.”
They cornered a young woman, in a short-sleeved pink shirt and bob, sitting with a mask across her face to protect herself from the deadly coronavirus. Little could she have imagined the threat she’d face that night. A young white woman with oversized glasses perched on her head, over her dirty blonde hair, screamed at her. Another petite woman, also white, lurched at the woman, jabbing her finger in her face, shouting, “Are you a Christian?”
Beside her, a young man badgered the resilient woman, wearing a t-shirt with the name of local nonprofit across the back: the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association. Was this one of the sponsors for the harassment of ordinary citizens? Did its leaders coordinate the agitators to unleash themselves on innocent diners?
The answer to those questions is no. The Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association is a local neighborhood organization with elderly black women as leaders, and none of them were on the streets that night. In this truth lies a great irony in the Woke mob that has emerged in the United States in recent months from Portland, Ore., to the nation’s capital: they are not authentic to the heart of civil rights or racial justice. They are agitators and instigators who, in fact, promote the dehumanization of others that the civil rights movement challenged.
In trying to challenge the “hierarchy of human value,” which civil rights advocates say degraded blacks, they are simply perpetuating a new hierarchy of devaluing the humanity of others. Indeed, the day of the marauding DC mob, E.D. Mondainé, the black president of the Portland chapter of NAACP, implored the city’s (mostly white) agitators, many doing violent damage for weeks now: "Stop. You’re putting yourself in danger, and you’re putting homeowners and families in danger, and you’re frightening children.” In D.C., the woman, identifying herself as Lauren B. Victor, told Washington Post reporter Frederick Kunkle: “I felt I was under attack.” Kunkle wrote on Twitter “that she felt there was something wrong about being coerced to show support.”
Hordes — like the rabid white agitators wandering the streets of DC — do disservice to sincere and courageous black citizens who lead organizations like the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association, a nonprofit established in 1998 to protect affordable housing for the mostly black elderly citizens and families in a neighborhood of northeast D.C., not far from the historic United States National Arboretum, with its sprawling expanse of manicured lawns and gardens. They are the heart and soul of actual citizen advocacy. They even answer their phone.
When I called, a woman with an animated voice answered, “Hello!” She was Minnie Elliott, 82, a black woman born and raised in Washington, D.C., and the president of the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association.
She hadn’t heard of the Adams Morgan marauding mob from the night before. I sent her a video clip. She had to hang up to watch the video because her phone didn’t allow her to stay on the phone and watch a video at the same time. She replied moments later in a text (to which I added punctuation for the sake of clarity), with as many questions as answers: “I don’t know any of those people. They are not part of our Organization, community or…supporters. They were very much out of place. Who was the lady? They were howling in her face, and why didn’t someone stop them?”
This brave woman — a pillar of her community — called back a few minutes later and spoke wise words of conscience: “I don’t know why someone didn’t stop them from bothering that one woman. Why were they all up and around that one woman?”
I explained what they were doing, demanding white people raise their fists to protest “white supremacy.” “I’ve never seen anything like that,” she responded. “For them to tell people to put their hands up and everything, that does not sound like anybody I know. And especially not black folks.”
A longtime activist, she knows the power of protest, saying: “Most people I know who are protesting are doing it because they’re hurting.”
But she paused and said: “There was not a black face there. All of them were white. I have protested in my years. You’ve got a lot of bad lemons in the bunch.”
By the account of the Washington Post reporter on the scene, a young black leader of the agitation directed white men and women to lead the harassment of other whites but she too was misguided. A Twitter user said the young woman harassed was a friend and a “huge supporter” of Black Lives Matter. “But she’s also not going to be pushed around,” the user said. “Congrats dumbasses. This is how you lose support.”
Instead of roaming the streets of our city’s streets, harassing innocents and torching storefronts, our country’s agitators need to pick up the phone and call an authentic civil rights advocate — 82-year-old Minnie Elliott — and raise their hand to do something actually meaningful: help her realize her mission.
Asra Q. Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.