The Black Lives Matter folks don’t need my permission or approval to disrupt Bernie Sanders’ speeches. Even commenting right now feels a little like I’m getting out of my very wide, not many rules, pass on the right if you feel like it lane of white privilege. But I will anyway because I don’t think it’s a good thing for white people to stand back every time racial politics hits the front page.
White progressives are irked that one of their nearest and dearest was made the target of Black Lives Matter protesters. It is an unexpected move to see them hijack such a liberal guy’s event but when you think about it, it’s complete genius. The gist of the complaint, from my remote point of view, is that being patronized is as odious as being completely marginalized. And it appears that many black voters think their votes have been taken for granted, assumed by the most progressive candidate to be his rightful due. I can see how this wouldn’t sit well. It feels patronizing, it feels like a whole large segment of the voters is being taken for granted. The pat on the head can infuriate more than a punch in the gut. It is the assumption of gratitude for the pat on the head that is the more poisonous.
I know what you want. I know what you need. Trust me to make everything better.
This is similar to the quick acquiescence of someone who may have been caught in a lie or an offense of some kind. The rush to admit and apologize serves to end the discussion on a dime. The offender has heard enough, he doesn’t need to hear anymore. Never mind that the offended hasn’t even started talking.
I wasn’t bothered by the disruption of Sanders’ event. It made me nostalgic. I remember when disruption and militancy, the tug of war between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr, the rise of the Black Panthers made us look at it. As in look at IT. We have to look at IT now because the unrelenting pattern of police behavior that has resulted in black people dying for no reason. Still, we are looking at IT as if IT is a law enforcement aberration rather than institutional racism that runs as deep as the Grand Canyon and took almost as long to form.
In the 60’s and 70’s, politics were wild, dangerous, in the street, not 10 people marching or 20 or a hundred. Thousands. Every day was unpredictable with new modes of rebellion and not all of it was pretty or admirable. People were angry and they were scared and when they were the angriest and most afraid was when there was the most hope. I know. I lived then. It was exhilarating. It seemed like anything was possible.
Stop the trains. Close the university. I will talk until I’m done.
So, if it is okay, I take my hat off to the Black Lives Matter people. If it’s okay, I’ll say that I hope Hillary is next. This pendulum won’t swing of its own accord. It has to be wrenched free and shoved to the new day.
And last, my toast to Black Lives Matter this August night: More power to you.