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Thursday, October 5, 2023


In a time of political activism, black lives really do matter

NYC action in solidarity with Ferguson. Mo, encouraging a boycott of Black Friday Consumerism.

A black person is killed by law enforcement every 28 hours in America | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The necessity for a disruptive type of political activism, sometimes even quite rude, is generated by the inaccessibility of traditional means of voicing a political message. These protesters seek to be heard. Everyone is involved in the political process; voters, incumbents, candidates and the like, should listen.

Recently, various groups of Black Lives Matter protesters have interrupted presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush demanding that they seek solutions for the current state of racial abuse.

The interruption that has gotten the most attention was conducted when protesters Marissa Janae Johnson and Mara Jacqueline Willaford charged Bernie Sanders’ stage to honor the memory of Michael Brown and to launch a criticism of the expansion of the prison industrial complex, the preschool to prison pipeline, Seattle gentrification and police brutality.

Opponents of these interruptions say protesters have been choosing the wrong candidates to interrupt. The most vocal opposition often comes from Sanders supporters who argue that he more than any other candidate is an ally to the movement for black life, seeing as how he was a very active member of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

While it may be true that Sanders has his receipts in order, and following the interruption he released a racial justice platform, no one is above criticism. Allies should welcome criticism, even interruption, as a moment of possibility that gives them the capacity to better position themselves in the movement.

The purpose of an ally is to follow, not lead.

This may seem counter-intuitive for someone running to be the “leader of the free world.” But an ally to the movement for black life and someone who doesn’t live with the experience of being black in the United States is incapable of coming up with solutions that fully address the myriad of structural disadvantages black people experience without the intervention of criticism.

A leader should be reflective, incorporating criticism into politics.

The scene of the interruption is important. It was a rally supporting the protection of Medicare and Social Security.  These are issues that indeed impact black lives as well.

Activists should hit an intersection. Our movements should happen together. Solidarity is not only valuable, but it is necessary to prevent movements from being infiltrated and turned against each other. The most valid criticism that should be given these activists is one that is concerned with solidarity.

“It should be understood that in the context of the civil rights struggle and the struggle against police misconduct and brutality, and by association, the Black Lives Matter movement, that there exists, and will always exist constant competition for the attention, understanding and substantial analysis the movement feels these issues deserve both outside and within the traditional media further incensed by the often inconsistent rotation of the news cycle,” said Marcus Smith, a political science and African-American studies senior.

However, many consider this competition expressed in the form of interrupting Sanders rude, and counterproductive, especially for those who view him as the candidate most in favor of addressing black issues.

Without getting into more intricate analysis, this is largely true.

This is what solidarity looks like. Solidarity with black folks whose lives have been interrupted by disproportionate policing and legacy of economic and political disenfranchisement.

Michael Brown, Sandra Bland and Sam Dubose will never get to reap the benefits of social security. They will never get to have their health checked up on through Medicaid.

Every interjection of this position is valuable, even when it’s a bit rude. Black life is unpredictable and all too often interrupted because the world fails to realize: black lives really do matter.

Opinion columnist Nicholas Tripp is a psychology junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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