Black Freedom Fighters.
When you read that term, whose faces come to mind?
Harriet Tubman? Frederick Douglass? Martin Luther King Jr? Malcolm X? Rosa Parks?
Each of these individuals fought for social justice during their time and has become an icon for the Black community — and beyond. They are more than just historical figures we read about in our books. They are symbols of tenacity and bravery made flesh; beacons for unwavering dedication in the pursuit of freedom and equality. And society has honored those contributions through television shows, movies, and collectible Barbie Dolls. They are spoken of with respect.
But what about today’s freedom fighters?
What about the individuals and groups who have picked up the mantle their forebears have left behind to continue their fight for equality and social justice? Why isn’t our society bestowing them the same types of honor and praise? Why are they painted in such a negative light?
The Black Lives Matter movement that swept the nation over the last decade – first in response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal of murdering Trayvon Martin, then later the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of the police – is probably the most prolific and well-known movement, thanks to extensive media coverage and the power of the internet.
But was that exposure a double-edged sword?
Pundits, reporters, and internet personalities began using the soundbites and images they wanted from this movement (like the protests) to further their agenda, boost ratings, or create a narrative they were comfortable with. Despite the actual intentions of Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi (the co-founders of BLM), who clearly specify its purpose is to “combat and counter acts of violence,” it’s still far too often portrayed as violent and uncontrolled. Not to mention the extreme scrutiny and harassment Alicia, Patrisse, and Opal have received for doing precisely what Rosa, Malcolm, and Harriet did during their own lifetimes.
Why the difference?
Is today’s society “comfortable” paying lip service to the likes of MLK and Frederick Douglass because they are no longer around to challenge the status quo? Are today’s activists and freedom “fighters” an uncomfortable reminder that even though we’ve come far – there is still much work to be done to eradicate racism and inequality? Is it a red herring tactic to label them “violent” or “militant” to distract us from their actual good work?
Share your thoughts with us. Do you think today’s Black leaders are being treated unfairly or unjustly? Why do you think that is? Please leave it in the comments below to help us further this important discussion.