There is no shortage of examples of black people being targeted and terrorized for their non-violent efforts against racism and inequality, and now we can add our own president to the list of instigators. Earlier this week, while talking to a crowd in Louisville, Kentucky, Donald Trump responded to a recent article published by The Bleacher Report, which revealed that NFL player and Black Lives Matter activist Colin Kaepernick hasn’t yet signed with a team. Taking responsibility for Kaepernick not being signed, Trump gloated to the crowd,
It was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that.
You heard that correctly. The man who is charged with protecting the rights and freedoms of all Americans publicly bragged that he used intimidation to sway the politics of the NFL, and harmed the career of a man who was exercising his free speech by taking a knee during the National Anthem before games as a show of solidarity with Black Lives Matter and as a stand against police brutality.
Sadly, with this recent public display, the president now joined the ranks of many white people who, instead of promoting democracy and freedom, participate in terrorism against black people for attempting to stand against their own oppression. Some Historical Context Since Africans arrived upon the shores of America as enslaved people, they have dutifully and even non-violently fought for their rights to be free and equal citizens in the eyes of the law and white people in general. In an effort to secure freedom or better treatment, black slaves employed various tactics from running away to work slowdowns, and very infrequently resorted to violence. By the Reconstruction Era, after slaves were declared free people, African-Americans took a stand against racism and inequality by becoming educated, marrying and starting families and holding government office. This radical protest against inequality was met with swift backlash from whites who formed paramilitary groups to disenfranchise black voters, attack the black community and ultimately usher in the era of Jim Crow that would force the segregation of black and white people.
This does not mean, however, that one must look so far back into America’s history to find examples of terrorism being employed against black people fighting for their freedom. When black people organized and created their own successful, thriving neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma known as “Black Wall Street” in response to segregation, whites from a neighboring town burned it practically into oblivion and murdered hundreds of its residents. In another attempt to establish independence in 1985, a few black residents of Philadelphia established MOVE, a black liberation group who lived communally and often exercised their freedom of speech by engaging in protests against discrimination, racism and police brutality. MOVE’s headquarters (a home on a residential street) was bombed by the Philadelphia police after a standoff, which resulted in the death of 11 of its members, including five children.
During the Civil Rights Era, black people were jailed, assassinated, publicly discredited by organizations like the CIA and FBI, branded terrorists, cut off from economic opportunity and threatened with death for merely refusing to sit at the back of buses, leave lunch counters, stand against inequality in the form of Jim Crow and other discriminatory practices or merely exercising their right to free speech. Many athletes were among them. When Muhammad Ali became a champion of Civil Rights, who also objected to the Civil War, he was barred from participation in his sport for three years during his prime.
During the 1968 Summer Olympics, gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos, two American black runners, raised their black-gloved fists in the air, in silent protest of America’s racism, and were expelled from the Games.
What’s Happening Right Now More recently, in the early 2000s, black families who accumulated income, sought the American Dream and looked to banks for help were targeted for predatory subprime mortgages, which ultimately lead to widespread foreclosures in black communities, crippling tax-bases and destroying entire neighborhoods. In 2008, After Barack Obama—a hardworking, Harvard-educated black man—was elected president, America saw a dramatic 250 percent surge in right-wing extremists and militias. Black Lives Matter was branded a terrorist organization by the right and its members are often subject to arrests by the state, despite advocating for peaceful protest.
Back when Kaepernick first began his protest and took a knee during the National Anthem, white America urged him to find a better way to protest, but based on America’s history, the truth is one does not exist. Whether black people pull themselves up by the bootstraps, take to the streets in peaceful protest, sit, stand or kneel, they are met with swift backlash and terrorism. The Black desire to fulfill the America dream — pursue life, liberty and happiness — continues to be threatened by racism and inequality, and instead of our president viewing this as a hinderance to democracy, he has cosigned and enabled it. Donald Trump has stood upon a public platform and told Americans that terrorizing a black person for standing up for his own rights is not only OK, but commendable and worthy of applause.
If both the NFL and President of the United States of America continue their attack on Kaepernick for expressing his political beliefs, they may very well be attacking the very foundation upon which this great nation was built: American democracy. Sadly, for African-Americans, that foundation is already shaky and this may threaten a complete collapse.
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