We’re not even a week into 2021 and this… the public outrage, the media frenzy, the social media memes. The events that transpired on January 6, 2021 in Washington DC are yet another example of how significant the color of one’s skin is when it comes to access, police response, and even public opinion.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Had the protestors been Black, lives would have been lost. Police would have opened fire indiscriminately and demonstrators would have been painted in a very different light by the afternoon and evening news. To further unmask inconsistencies and prejudice with which Black people have been dealing in America, had Obama pulled something like this during his presidency…
I get it. I really do.
It’s not right.
It’s not fair.
In fact, it’s absolutely unacceptable.
But if it's true that it's unacceptable, then why are we accepting it? Take issue with that question? Well, how are we “not accepting it”?
By not being silent?... By using the influence of social media to bring attention to the aforementioned inequalities, thereby exposing the reality of white supremacy and demanding a change?
As I have struggled with the inevitable question of what to do, a lot has been made clear to me. The first point of clarity speaks to why demanding change is not enough.
When we speak in the ways referenced above, we severely limit our power to only exposing and explaining. And after we have thoroughly supplied an explanation (for the obvious), we essentially wait for the government (or a corporation or something) to implement a change in law or policy that reflects the explanation we gave. But is there real power in this? Sure, I guess... to a degree—and only within the confines of power defined as influence. Demanding change is completely dependent on entities that make (and enforce) the change. When we reduce our responses to demanding change only, we forfeit our ability to operate from positions of authority— being the powerful entities that make the change. But should we be granted authority, that would still not be enough.
Historically, the fight for justice and equality over the past several decades has been a fight for authority— a fight to exercise personal autonomy in public spaces (without legal restrictions) and to secure political or professional positions/titles where decisions can be made. Holding such positions, (in an ideal world) we would make changes that benefit ourselves, our communities, and our interests as Black people. However, in order for those positions to be acquired, certain prerequisites have to be met, certain rules have to be followed, and certain games have to be played. Once the sought-after positions/titles are granted (which is another power dynamic) there are rules and games that must be respected in order to maintain the position. We all know where this ends, unfortunately; as there are too many accounts of so-called leaders rising to positions of authority and making few (if any) decisions that change the overall plight and trajectory of Black people in America.
What We Must Do
1. We must solve our own problems.
“I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.” Malcolm X
I think we are too dependent on a system that has been created to keep some up and others down. This system will not lift those who are downtrodden above the people who have been holding the "up position" since the system was created. For this reason, we cannot wait on the system or people in the system to change it for our benefit. At the end of the day, the responsibility to secure freedom belongs to the people who want it—not the people withholding it. Shifting mindsets from waiting passively for someone or something to "give us free" or to liberate ourselves is a must. We must be willing to doing whatever necessary to get back what was never anyone else’s to grant (or take) in the first place… our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
2. We must realize our personal and collective power.
“If a man wants to lynch me, that’s his problem. If he has the power to lynch me, that’s my problem.” Kwame Toure
Racism and white supremacy, concepts on which America was built and is sustained, ultimately severs the connection that the oppressed have with their personal and collective power (authentic power). Using fear and intimidation, division and deceit, oppressed people misinterpret authority as the ultimate power and use their authentic power to maintain and serve the very authoritative systems which oppress them. In other words, white supremacy is a power game.
Oppressors oppress, as Amos Wilson teaches, because they have the power to do so. The oppressed are oppressed because they have not individually or collectively garnered enough power to nullify or suppress the power exerted to oppress them in the first place. As a people, we must shift our attention from all that distracts us from our real power, connect with our real power, and use it to make a difference and change our world.
3. We must DO something.
“Why do they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?” Bob Marley
I feel like Bob Marley's question applies to so many of our responses in recent years. We were looking on when Eric Garner was murdered. We were looking on when George Floyd was murdered. We got angry after Sandra Bland was murdered. We demanded justice for Breonna Taylor... I don't want to be too critical about our responses... but it just seems like we are so busy talking about our problems and expressing our opinions that we neglect to take unified and decisive action. Don't get me wrong, though, talking has its place. It is necessary to educate the masses and also for formulating a plan of action. However, I believe that there is a very fine line between talking and complaining, and too many of us are walking it… and losing balance.
Action must follow constructive and productive conversations. And while it is true that actions speak louder than words, it's powerful when actions are consistent with words. Let us talk the talk AND walk the walk. This is the decision we must make using our personal authority. And when we make this decision individually and connect with others who do the same, we will be endowed with a power from on high (some godstuff) that will magnify and fortify our power beyond our imaginations. This power has always been available to us; it has just been waiting for us to wake up— because once we, the sleeping giants, wake up, we will stand up and then rise up, and there won't be any stopping us then.