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.

One thought on “Protest Participation and Black Power

  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!

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