Tag Archives: Black Activism

Petty Protests and Inconsequential Activism: Why Colin Kaepernick’s Protest Misses the Mark of Aiding the Black Liberation Struggle

Muhammad Ali, the agreed upon ‘Greatest of All-Time’ by sports fans once quipped, “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” I absolutely love this particular quote for myriad reasons, most notably because it reminds me to continually re-evaluate my political positions and beliefs.

It is this re-evaluation process that has led me to take significant issue with Colin Kaepernick’s recent decision to not stand for the Kaepernick 2playing of the National Anthem. Put simply, Kaepernick’s decision to publicly protest in this method is little more than a public tantrum that does absolutely nothing to advance the cause that he claims to be representing.

Let me first relate that in another period of my life, I would have wildly celebrated Kaepernick’s antics, I myself routinely refused to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. During those years, I considered it one of the most poignant ways of protesting the historic wrongs and injustices that this nation has perpetrated against my people for the world to see.

A much less wise version of myself would have not only agreed with Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem, but also considered it a significant blow against “the man”. I also imagine that had I been asked about my one-man crusade, my response would have been eerily similar to Colin Kaepernick’s recent response to this matter. The San Francisco quarterback responded in the following manner to a reporters questioning his actions,

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color…it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder…I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed…”

As much as my twenty-year-old version would have agreed with Kaepernick’s position, I now realize that as a forty-something-year-Kaepernickold African-American male who has wrestled with this thing called Race for several decades that oftentimes an absence of experience leads us to prematurely celebrate before victory has been seized. Let me be absolutely clear, it is not that I disagree with Kaepernick’s decision to not stand for the playing of the National Anthem, it is that he, and a host of other like-minded individuals believe that this rather mundane public protest is significant.

Now endowed with an insight that only life’s lessons can bestow, I consider Kaepernick, and likeminded individuals who have rushed forward to support not “stand(ing) up to show pride in a flag that oppresses Black people” as persons who fail to understand either the issues facing African-Americans or have any semblance of an understanding regarding their eradication.

Make no mistake about it, Kaepernick’s decision to protest the National Anthem reminds the nation, including a segment of Americans’ who devoutly avoid racial issues, of long-standing patterns of racial discrimination executed by ordinary American citizens, as well as long-standing patterns of institutional racism perpetrated via American institutions. The NFL Quarterback was able to protest while neither denying nor dismissing the incredible contributions of African-American activists who have strove to “Let America Be America Again” by spending their entire lives as trailblazers and torchbearers illuminating and paving a path to success for individuals such as Kaepernick.

The euphoria surrounding Kaepernick’s protest has led the vast majority of supporters and opponents to ignore a basic query of ‘How does sitting on your ass during the playing of the National Anthem Kaepernick 3solve any of the voluminous problems facing Black America?’ The truth of the matter is that such fleeting public protests barely address, let alone reverse racial inequality in any significant manner. Unfortunately for the future of Black America, today’s cadres of attention-seeking contemporary activists appear to consider symbolic public protests as the ‘gold standard’ of activism.

This reliance upon highly symbolic, yet totally intangible, protest has seemingly duped an entire generation of so-called activists into believing that such ‘antics’ are akin to the grassroots activism and institution building of yesteryear. It is this institution-building that holds the key to Black liberation, not symbolic public protests that do little more than invigorate social media sites and users.

If the legions of individuals who support Colin Kaepernick’s courageous decision to not stand during the National Anthem really want to eradicate racial inequality maybe their activism should extend well-beyond celebrating an inconsequential protest and dedicate their resources toward the historic grassroots struggle to address tangible issues within our community such as supporting the independent Black school movement, job creation, political participation, supporting Black entrepreneurs, and volunteering their time tutoring African-American school children.

It is in the aforementioned areas, and a host of others, that the potential for racial uplift and therefore racial equality is found. What is the alternative you ask? Well the only realistic alternative is for our activist community to continue what has been their greatest post-Black Power Era tradition of sitting on their asses as Mr. Kaepernick displayed during his protest, griping about racial issues without doing anything definitive toward the creation of independent Black institutions, and watching as the world go by.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

Calling Black Lives Matter and All Black Protest Groups to A More Principled Position

Black Power to Black People, 
White Power to White People, 
Brown Power to Brown People, 
Yellow Power to Yellow People, 
Red Power to Red People. 
All Power to the People!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fred Hampton

There are not many things that make me cringe in pain; however the appearance of pervasive ignorance never fails to take me to that rare threshold. Today I cringed in a most unusual manner while bpp6watching footage of a ‘Black Lives Matter’ activist outside of the Democratic National Convention give directives to an assembly of activists. The cringe worthy portion of this activity is found in her request, or should I say demand, that whites retreat to the rear of the march because the pending march was to be led by Black protesters and Black protesters alone.

Although I instantly recognized what this young and apparently inexperienced activist was attempting to achieve by having a Black led March against a racial issue, I also recognized her voluminous ignorance regarding the multi-racial nature of prior activism during both the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Era. It has always amazed me how ignorance or a superficial understanding of prior struggles leads contemporary activists to re-write the tactics and strategies of prior protest movements.

The demand that whites assemble in the rear harkened my mind back to the Women’s Suffragist movement when white women, attempting to cater to prejudiced southern delegates, issued a similar ‘request’ to Black Women suffragists. It appears that some, certainly not all, members of today’s Black activist scene have chosen to ignore Audre Lorde’s admonishment that,

For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism…is a real condition of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside (his and) herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears.

One thing is for certain, today’s Black activist must find a way to simultaneously avoid replicating the hatred emanating from other baldwingroups with divergent ideas for it will ultimately lead to them becoming that very entity that they so strongly loathe. The cost of doing such is one that none of us can afford to pay. Failure to recognize this danger means that we unfortunately become the very figures that noted social critic James Baldwin was considering when he stated, “People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply; by the lives they lead.

Contemporary Black activists must always make certain that they do not become that which they fight so diligently fight against, because if they do, there is no doubt that their opponent has won by turning them into a mirror image of the hate, vengefulness, and irrationality that they possess. I have no doubt that today’s Black activists are able to find a medium between avoiding such an unfortunate position while also moving the Black agenda forward.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016