The shooting rampage of Micah Xavier Johnson in Dallas on July 7, 2016 opened the floodgates for the continued vilification of Black Power. The fear of the unknown propels people who are not black to equate pride in oneself to hate of everyone else. Although we can name white hate groups who have historically terrorized anyone who is non-white, Black Power is not inherently about hate or violence. Willie Ricks and Stokely Carmichael of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) coined and injected the phrase into black culture on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement. In it’s purest state, it’s about self-love and it continues to be that for most. When we raise our fists, it’s about strength and solidarity, not hate.
In 1968 Kwame Ture (then Stokely Carmichael, 1941–1998) defined Black Power as “the ability of black people to politically get together and organize themselves so that they can speak from a position of strength rather than a position of weakness” (quoted in Ladner 1967, p. 8). Nearly 50 years later, we need to exercise Black Power more than ever!
Many celebrities have honored their black pride, sparking outrage from the police and the white community. When Beyonce and her dancers paid homage to Malcolm X, the Black Panthers in their Superbowl 50 performance, just days after the release of the video Formation, police refused to provide protection for her at concerts. That trend of backlash from the police is still taking place. Four Minneapolis police officers walked off the job at a WNBA game between the Minnesota Lynx and the Dallas Wings after the Lynx players wore #BlackLivesMatter T-shirts, even though the back of the shirts honored the fallen Dallas officers along with Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
Is the media purposely trying to vilify the Black Power and Black Lives Matter movements to weaken them? Or do they truly misunderstand what the movements are about? They are way off base with their assumptions. Stating that the movement to value and protect lives in our community, along with social media, sparks action like that of Micah Johnson is ridiculous. The violence and trauma against black lives with no accountability is what sparked his killing spree.
We don’t condone the violence enacted against police, even though rogue officers have terrorized our community since the inception of law enforcement in America. Many in the black community are traumatized by repeatedly seeing unarmed people shot and killed by police, coupled with negative personal experiences with the police. When there are shootings in the white community, grief counselors are often brought in to help victims and loved ones cope. This is not typically the case in the black community. How much can a people take before they reach the breaking point?
There is a very simple remedy that would help everything fall into place! Hold officers accountable for their actions. If the killers of Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, John Crawford, Aiyana Jones, Sandra Bland and countless others, were in jail right now, there would be a sense that justice was served. The issue is accountability. If police officers knew that they would go to jail for killing an unarmed black person, they would stop doing it every 28 hours.