In contemplating the contemporary climate, I cannot help but consider the fervor of so called revolutionary acts as reactionary at best. I originally authored this post as the western world waited to see how many would kneel during the beginning of the NFL season. Kneeling has seemingly become a contemporary version of the black fist, an advancement that implicitly explains how Bodak Yellow is the number one song in North America.
Kneeling, the physical hybrid of standing and laying down, has superseded the black fist as the modern symbol of justice. As mentioned in a post of the same topic that you can find here, this act is one I regard with ambivalence. On one hand, I love seeing black people come together. Seeing Stevie Wonder, one of the wonders of the world, kneel in support of Kaepernick was a beautiful moment because black solidarity is an essential tool for black advancement. Thus, the brotherly love depicted in Stevie Wonder’s gesture is revolutionary, kneeling however is not.
In fact, kneeling is a reactionary act. To be revolutionary is to play for a black only, black-owned and black-endorsed team. To embody the revolutionary is to refuse to be a field worker for contemporary slave masters, to refuse materialism for self-respect.
Kneeling is what Malcolm Gladwell in his article “Small Change: The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted” called low-risk activism. The activism is low risk, because although contentious, the so called activists are paid workers, making them disobedient employees not revolutionaries. A revolutionary would not use their body to alter circumstance, but their mind. For it was not the white body that created slavery, it was the white mind. Thus, in order to liberate black bodies, the black body minds must be free. This activism constitutes low risk because it does not demand the participant to consider the totality of black disenfranchisement. It allows the black, white, or non-black peron of color to live in the now—to collaborate in combat of an orange being who I am told is the leader of the free world . Thus, this low risk, reactionary behavior, reduces its impact by placing this individual, who I refuse to address by name, at the center of this so called revolutionary behavior.
It is a disturbing but resonant fact that this recent election offset an acknowledgement of injustices that have resulted in the murders, rapes, exploitation, and extortion of black bodies for centuries. It is unsettling that so many have only recently become angry yet still covet white wealth.
It is imperative to note that if Hillary Clinton— a co-conspirator in the mass incarceration of young black men and exploitation of several countries within the black diaspora— had won, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, Philandro Castile, and Alton Sterling, amongst countless other black men, women, and children who did not gain media traction, would still very much be dead—but the uproar would most likely not be as loud. The NFL and NBA would still very much be racist, but taking a knee would be limited to those tying their shoes– arguments of white supremacy would be silenced, or less covered in lieu of a white female supremacy veiled as a minority victory.
This truth, as troubling as it is true, summarizes the confusion of our contemporary climate. Moreover, the modern reactionary efforts are low risk because they do not actually have an issue with racism, they have an issue with overt racism.
To truly have an issue with racism, the black collective would not desire inclusion. Most within the black collective only have an issue with racism if is directly impedes our stride towards whiteness. In reality, we should be angered daily when we open our mouths to speak the language of our oppressors, or sign the white man’s last name on all our official documents. Our daily lives as black people bear the remnants of colonialism, yet we have been trained to “look past” the quotidian symbols of our oppression.
If truly meant to personify black injustice. the black man or woman should be kneeling through life, not just the national anthem. So, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.
Black power, not just today but everyday.