For over a year now, Colin Kaepernick has been using his platform as an NFL superstar to protest police brutality. On Friday, September 22, 2017, a group of Howard University students protested this year’s Convocation speaker, James Comey, during convocation.
In both instances, I have seen people call the protestors “disrespectful” and tell them that what they were doing was “inappropriate.” I find this both amusing and troubling. A protest, by definition, is an act of civil disobedience and “disobedience” almost promises that the act will “disrespectful” and “inappropriate.” A protest is meant to make you uncomfortable; it’s meant to make you upset. If those who I’m protesting enjoy my protest, then I’m doing it wrong.
Oppressed people have two options: be loud and obnoxious until you get enough attention to change things or suffer in silence. In my opinion, to suffer in silence is to willingly accept what’s being done to you.
In my favorite Zora Neale Hurston quote, she says, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
Colin Kaepernick decided not to let anyone believe that he enjoyed police brutality. The group of Howard students who protested during convocation decided not to let anyone believe that they enjoyed a symbol of an unjust system being welcomed into their safe space.
Those acts are things I can respect. What I cannot respect, however, is respectability politics and the choosing of white comfort over Black lives. The”disrespectful” and “inappropriate” argument against protest sounds a lot like “be a good nigger and don’t start no trouble.”
When in actuality, trouble is exactly what we need. The “good trouble” John Lewis spoke of is so necessary. You can’t disregard people and then expect their opposition to be pleasant. Pleasence is too easy to ignore. You cannot let yourself be ignored and you shouldn’t encourage others to let themselves be ignored. Agency requires ruffling more than a few feathers.
Be the zeitgeist.