I’ve heard countless complaints about demonstrations and protests, especially since the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Some call these outward expressions of distress, stemming from distrust surrounding community officials and “the system” as a whole, unnecessary. A friend of mine went as far to argue that ordinary Blacks don’t want anything to do with it and such social movements are unrepresentative of what the majority feel.
The first entry included in the classic, Soul On Ice, seems to relate to this issue directly. The book is comprised of a series of essays written by Eldridge Cleaver who, at this time in the 50’s, was completing a prison sentence.
The passage that stood out to me reads, “Prior to 1954 Negroes found it necessary, in order to maintain whatever sanity they could, to remain somewhat aloof and detached from the problem. Nurtured by the fires of controversy over segregation, I was soon aflame with indignation over my newly discovered social status and inwardly I turned away from America in horror, disgust and outrage.”
Today, we look back at this time period as unquestionably horrifying for Blacks in America. Although I know that not every Black person attended The March on Washington, I almost assumed that all or most Black people were in agreement. I didn’t consciously come to this conclusion but it’s the only side of the Civil Rights era we’re exposed to today. To think that there were people, most people according to Cleaver, who weren’t aware of how unjust the system was is almost unbelievable. However, the behavior towards Blacks now deemed unacceptable was very acceptable and expected at the time. Cleaver refers to his social status as a second class citizen as newly discovered. Many didn’t rise up. Many didn’t protest. They didn’t see the need to. His realization came with the uprising of those who did protest. His realization came with the headlines those demonstrations made.
My introduction to social justice within the Black Community came about in the same way. Clearly, I’ve been Black my entire life. I have a Black father and Black brothers. Yet, it wasn’t until Black Lives Matter became a hashtag that I realized that I am Black. I realized that because I am Black, these issues affect me. And so, I started my fight. Just because there are people, some within our own communities, who don’t see the need to fight doesn’t mean there is nothing to fight for. There is plenty worth fighting for. Just the way those inactive in the Civil Rights Movement were numb and accepting of the norms of that society, there are those today who will react the same way. However, once the truth is seen it cannot be unseen. Spread the truth. Spread it though demonstration.
Keeping the movement alive is a way of bringing awareness to the community. Keep fighting. There is so much left to fight for. Stand on the right side of history.