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Does Black Protest Need White People?

Does Black Protest Need White People?

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A recent Twitter exchange with a well-meaning poster has raised some interesting views about the impact of black protest and whether white involvement is necessary to legitimise it. The discussion centred around the Ole Miss players who followed Colin Kaepernick’s brave example and took a knee before a recent basketball match in protest at a confederate flag. In the accompanying video it could be seen that some white teammates showed support by placing a hand on their black colleagues shoulder - yet remained standing.

Of course this unwillingness to join their friends in a legitimate protest against white supremacy is problematic in itself - but this was not the issue raised.  What caused the debate was the notion by one commentator, that protest by the BAME athletes would be pointless unless they were joined by their white comrades. There is no doubting that the intention behind this argument is good and it is fairly logical to assume that the white power structures of America might pay more attention if those people kneeling in defiance of the national anthem were fair skinned – but it also hides an uncomfortable assumption. 

Let’s unpack this for a second…

The Kaepernick protest was a spontaneous eruption of indignation at the continued repression of POC in America. It wasn’t designed as a movement or a as a hashtag but was simply one man, at one moment who was as mad as hell and was not gonna take it any more – a small act of defiance weighed with great significance. In many ways it could be compared to the Rosa Parks incident and everything that followed. Of course ‘Kap’ was a high profile sports star in the age of social media so in a short space of time we have seen the fire of protest jump from sport to sport and arena to arena. This thing is just getting started. How long before we see black soccer players taking a knee in a World Cup match, or even at the 2020 Olympics the possibility for widespread adoption across the sporting world is exhilarating. 

What would be wrong is to undermine the power of black protest simply because The System is predominantly white. It is precisely because the powers that be are white the protest is so profound and so necessary. It is the sight of a small minority in stoic peaceful protest against a powerful enemy that is so stirring. Naturally this sight will serve to inspire people of all races to join in the fight, but let’s not forget that this is a black protest. White people can assist and facilitate the resistance but must defer to the purity of its leaders. There is a risk of white athletes or celebrities taking up the yolk and standing in the front lines. They could distract from the true nature of the protest or even worse be seen as the white saviours of the black man. This would defeat the purpose of the revolution in the first instance and only help to further the white-centric sytem of power that already exists. 

What do you think? Post a comment below and get the conversation started.

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