Protest Participation and Black Power


We met on the hilltop. The chants occurred sporadically, ascending when passing those translating our footsteps to footage on their phones. The African adjacent came with signs more often than the African descended. The crowd knelt with raised fists twice, a gesture synonymous with closing one’s eyes to pray. In studying the ancestral plight to overcome anti-blackness, I vowed only to stand in their memory. This memory informs my perspective on this nuanced performance of a historic gesture which comprises a larger, more troublesome praxis.

A raised fist and Kapernick’s kneeling gesture attain a different meaning when the African adjacent assumes the position. Seeing this, I couldn’t help but think about Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised their fist after their victories at the 1968 Olympics. Though Tommie Smith would later state that his gesture symbolized “human rights,” the media interpreted their gestures as symbolizing black power. As a result, Smith, and Carlos faced extensive criticism and professional hinderance for publically proclaiming black pride. Recalling the general conceptualization of black power and human rights as disparate entities embody an imperative distinction that the black collective must note in this contemporary fervor.

The media seeks to transform an antagonization that inundates the black narrative as an American epidemic. George Floyd appears to embody an umbrella under which the human race has globally united. However, the reality is that this one act has engendered a plethora of conversations and angles which promise to socially reproduce the trauma consistently cast onto the black collective. Whether Americanizing the African’s plight by citing brutality as hindering “people of color,” or citing Trump as the sole adversary, the media proves relentless in seeking to erase blackness from a black issue. Though his face is everywhere, the face means a million different things to a million different people. To the black collective, Floyd’s face joins a sea of other faces that we cannot forget. For this reason, Floyd’s death is not symptomatic of Trump’s America. To posit Trump as scapegoat illuminates an identical simplicity to positing “training” as a feasible remedy for systemic racism. Trump, an unapologetic racist whose crass strategy to nurture a collective narcissism that he embodies in part, not whole, mirrors the very training enforced systemically by the police. The police, like Trump, encapsulate what Frantz Fanon called “the official, legitimate agent, the spokesperson for the colonizer and the regime of the oppre.ssion” (Fanon 4). Simply put, the police, like Trump, embody agents of white supremacy.

Additionally, to cast Trump as scapegoat reveals a political agenda that asks the black collective to replace one racist with another. Perhaps most significantly, even in what seems to denounce Trump, his consistent centrality in discussions of American adversity delineates a persistent failure to prioritize the black collective. In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon underscores that to decolonize “The last shall be first.” Thus, an inability to acknowledge Floyd as emblematic of a unique violence that haunts the black collective illuminates an inability to transition blackness from last to first. Thus, the media projects colonization as a stagnant force in refusing to dethrone whiteness.

These claims may fall on deaf ears to those serenaded and vindicated by the African-adjacent chanting “black lives matter.” Yet, many of those who held signs and screamed “black lives matter” happily gentrify (or gentrified) black communities and universities. So while the African-adjacent chant “black lives matter” now, somehow black lives mattered significantly less when it meant forfeiting their own desires to actualize personal ambition. White or anti-black involvement in the contemporary fervor does not symbolize black lives as mattering to the world. Rather, this involvement reflects a means to infiltrate the black power they know will not only mollify police violence but abolish the anti-black privileges that enable their quality of life. African-Adjancent vestment, as Fanon once said, remains anchored in the presence of an anti-black setting. Fanon wrote: “the colonist is not interested in staying on or existing once the colonial context has disappeared.”

This self-serving vestment illustrates what Dr. Amos Wilson called the “power over” in Blueprint for Black Power. He writes: “Power as the ‘power over’ in contrast to power as the ‘power to’ emphasizes the use of power by one person or group to contain or restrict the possibilities or options of another person or group” (8). Thus, the integrated protests exhibits African-adjacent effort to actualize power over black people, not humans united over a common cause.

This is why the same black individuals pushed out of their homes, denied an education, and made to live with a figurative foot on their necks, only attain visibility when placed in a morgue, turned into ashes, or when buried beneath the ground.

We “matter” when we can no longer breathe.

If there is any question as to the legitimacy of black lives matter, let us examine word functionality in the phrasing employed to archive black death and the reaction it engenders. The term “unarmed” black man and “peaceful” protest similarly function to vindicate what would not need to be vindicated if black lives truly mattered in America. Armed white men are never deemed threatening in this abducted space. Thus, we as a people not only have to be “twice as good,” as the saying goes, we must also be twice as innocent as the most guilty African-adjacent person.

The protests also illuminate an unsettling truth; that far too many remain espoused to the idea that blacks need white people in order to actualize change. The non-deadly ways in which the police respond to contemporary retaliation illuminates the side-effects of white inclusion. This, however, does not mean conflicts that inform the black plight have gained the traction necessary for advancement. This underscores that anti-black adversity only seems human when the masses that congregate for change are integrated.

Black unity threatens the white supremacist space because it evidences that every measure taken to destroy us a people has failed. Black unity depicts Willie Lynch as lynched by his own lies. Black unity illuminates the only force that can abolish white supremacy because it threatens how most throughout the globe have been conditioned to conceptualize humanity. Therefore, an anti-black society calls black unity racist to maintain the dominance and control necessary to continually “win” the race they call human.

This reality is perhaps betrayed in the fact that blacks need not take part in a physical protest to meet the retaliatory actions of anti-black agents. Whether an all-black gala, a black organization or any public gathering containing black people in majority, to the black oppressor this presence proves daunting. Therefore, blacks face adversity because they are black, black unity embodying a protest autonomous from picket signs and chants.

Because the African adjacent, by default, precludes black unity as a force;, they are not, and can not, constitute allies. Furthermore, the African-adjacent may march alongside black people, but blacks still walk alone in their plight to overcome global anti-black adversity.

Works Cited

Fanon, Frantz.”On Violence.” The Wretched of the Earth. Grove Press, 1963, pp. 1-51.

Wilson, Amos. Blueprint for Black Power. Afrikan World InfoSystems, 1983, pp. 1-26.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Why in the hell are whites even showing up at OUR protests? They are the very reasons why we are dying. They are why our homes no longer exist. They are why there are disparities in health care, income, education; the whole nine yards. They are why we are the faces of mass incarceration. They are the reasons why we are the faces of police brutality. They know who the racist kops are and yet, they say nothing; they do nothing about that shit! But there they are trying to be seen as though they have ever given a damn about us. They are why we are protesting! And I’ll be damned if I’ll allow myself to stand, shoulder to shoulder with my mortal foe!

    Great post!

  2. Jo says:

    @Shelby Courtland; You are damn right that this white girl has zero desire to stand shoulder to shoulder with you! You RACIST POS!
    Black folks keep killing everyone, mostly each other, but unfortunately, all others in their paths too!
    Maybe traipse back to Africa..? Wait, your tribal leaders, sold your asses into Slavery FROM there, TO the white man. Somehow it’s all the white man’s fault?!
    Go get yo’ job that you didn’t earn, with affirmative action. Then take your lazy ass back home and continue to cash your welfare check. Because you decided that’s easier than having to go to work every day. THEN, blame that too, on the white man!
    I’ve never seen a group of people, more senseless, murderous, and animal like. The same pos’ that bite every hand that’s ever fed them. Then, they complain about being fed.
    Keep spewing your anti white bs,& believe you me, YOU are the reason why you are hated. Your miserable CU*T like ways, spreading hate, among anyone you come across.
    Though I know this will never show up on your RACIST as shit page! Ya IGNORANT jackass!
    You will all

    1. Hello. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Unfortunately, none of what you said is new or unexpected. I’m not sure that there is anything more barbaric than stealing a group of people from their land, having them a build an entire for country for free, murdering Black people, taking pictures beside their mutilated corpses, selling their body parts as souvenirs, raping black women and selling your own children into bondage. Mind you this is a modest list of the evils cast against black people. Also, white women are who benefit most from affirmative action and most welfare recipients are white. Thank you so much for your comment, because you illuminate the pervasive ignorance engendered from global white hegemony. It’s fascinating that all the history books and newspapers are in your favor, but that still doesn’t incite your need or desire to read, or pretend you read them. Go figure.

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