the oppressed are silent and accept their oppression, the mainstream
of the oppressor group views them as noble, and sometimes saintly.
When they are victimized, robbed of their land, sent to concentration
camps, or shot and killed but appear to accept their lot in life, the
oppressed are treated as sympathetic creatures worthy of support.
when the oppressed dare to resist and reject their “victimhood”
they take on a different character as far as the mainstream of the
oppressor group is concerned. The oppressed become scary, uppity,
ungrateful, vengeful, unruly, unpatriotic, etc., all because they
have chosen to resist the instruments of their oppression.
we have watched events unfold ever since the murder of Trayvon
Martin, and the subsequent killings of Black people by the police, we
have also witnessed the rise of a resistance movement. It is
critical to understand that this is a movement rather than the rise
of only one organization. Though recognized by the hashtag
“#BlackLivesMatter,” this is both an organization as well
as a much larger movement that correctly argues that we—as
Black people—live in a society that devalues Black lives and
has since we were first brought to these shores in chains in 1619.
This is a movement that does not assert the superiority of Black
lives, but instead asserts our humanity and that our humanity and
human rights must be respected. In that regard the movement for
Black Lives is well within the tradition of those like Martin Luther
King, Malcolm X and so many others who raised the clarion call of
July 12th, as I sat awaiting the playing of the
Major League Baseball All-Star Game I found myself thinking about the
current situation but I also found myself thinking about the iconic
player, Jackie Robinson, and the profound lessons that one can learn
from his experience relevant to this moment. It was, in 1947, that
Jackie Robinson entered the Major Leagues, brought up to the Brooklyn
Dodgers. For that first year Jackie Robinson, as per his arrangement
with team owner Branch Rickey, suffered in silence in the face of
racist taunts and attacks. During that period Robinson gained great
note and much of mainstream white America came to feel fondly of him.
He was a noble creature.
in subsequent years, when he was no longer bound by that original
agreement, Robinson openly resisted racist taunts and attacks. He
spoke up and challenged those who wanted him to act like a “boy.”
As he spoke up, his “poll numbers” dropped, at least in
mainstream white America. He no longer appeared
submissive but, instead, was outspoken, if not audacious.
thus, the pattern reappeared; and it continues to do so. Suffer the
whips of oppression in silence and everyone loves you. Dare to
struggle; dare to reject victimhood, and we become the object of fear
and, from the political Right, overt hatred.
like Jackie Robinson during his baseball career, we do not have the
option of silence.