Use art and privilege as a tool

by Camille Galles

On Sunday, people frolicked in the streets as the MayDay Parade wound its way through the Powderhorn neighborhood of Minneapolis. But Sunday was very different for the people of Baltimore. It marked the day when the city’s nightly curfew was lifted and the National Guard began to withdraw from the city. 
The theme of the Minneapolis parade — “… And Still We Rise” — directly acknowledged the Black Lives Matter movement. But what stuck out to me was although the parade celebrated black culture, the majority of the attendants were white. 
As civil rights protests erupt across the country, it’s often difficult for me to know how to be a white, privileged supporter without overshadowing black voices. How can I help to rectify a broken system from which I directly benefit?
Black Lives Matter protesters march for an overhaul of a racist criminal justice system. But like any social movement, changes won’t stick unless they happen internally. 
“Recognize your privilege!” is easy to preach, but is a lot harder to perform. The floats in the MayDay Parade offer an example not only of how to recognize privilege but also how to use it as a force for good.
The ability to create and enjoy art is a privilege that we should recognize. But what makes art different from other forms of privilege is that it can be used as a physical tool for justice. By creating art that directly acknowledges and supports Black Lives Matter, the MayDay Parade artists forced all attendants to confront their privilege. People of color don’t need to be reminded of this. But the white people who lined the streets last Sunday do.  
The MayDay parade used art as a tool to foster powerful awareness for both artists and observers. As the summer art festival season approaches, let’s remember to use all the tools we can to support black lives.