Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

"They want you to have a nice parade": BLM activists on Full Frontal explain how protests are working

Kimberly Jones, Mike Brown
Kimberly Jones, Mike Brown
Screenshot: Full Frontal

Self-described “basic cable John Oliver” Samantha Bee did her signature number on Donald Trump on Wednesday’s Full Frontal, doing two righteously funny and furious segments on Trump’s ongoing war on the free press and its inconveniently persistent discovery of facts about him. (Farcically thin-skinned to legitimate criticism or would-be dictatorial war on the truth? With Donald Trump, there’s no need to choose just one!) But the most potent part of the show came from new-ish Full Frontal correspondent Mike Brown, who sat down with (via video chat) three of the most vocal leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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With the funny and amiable Brown playing selectively silly sounding board, the segment presented a trio of actually informed, boots-on-the-ground Black activists as a riposte to Fox News’ cavalcade of hyperbolically sweaty talking (white) heads. Providing reasonable yet unbending juxtaposition to the feeble Fox grab-bag of “Eeek-Black people!” clichés about “riots,” “violence,” and (Jesus, take the wheel) “domestic terrorists,” Brown made room on America’s airwaves for some people who actually have some perspective on the undeniably effective, five-weeks-and-counting Black Lives Matter protests spurred by the police murder of George Floyd.

Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, spoke of white media scaremongers’ “projection” in looking at Black people taking to the streets in search of justice as “terrorists,” giving Brown first-hand accounts of the increasingly caught-on-camera times when police are the ones turning what Brown termed the “joyful noise” of demonstrations into tear gas choked beatdowns. Preferring the word “uprisings” to “riots” (“The P.R. genius at work,” joked Brown), Cullors yet stressed that things have to have gotten to the last extremity, with all other options for change and reform exhausted, before street-level action is going to occur.

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That’s echoed by activist and viral, verbal virtuoso Kimberly Jones, who told Brown that, to white Americans ensconced in their privilege, the sight of Black people actually effecting change through direct action is scary stuff. “Racism is not a Black problem that white people need to empathize with,” explained Jones, “It is a white problem they created and that they need to fix.” Picking up on her Monopoly metaphor from that viral video, Jones told Brown that the American game as constructed has been proven simply “not winnable” over 400-plus years of playing, and that the current—and, again, working—demands for action are all about creating “a new board.”

Game-changing perspective is also what Reverend William Barber II called for, telling Brown that, far too often, white Americans in front of their TV sets “think peace is the absence of noise and not the presence of justice,” concluding with ministerial yet withering contempt, “They want you to have a nice parade.” Echoing his colleagues’ uncompromising pleas for such people to recognize that long-suppressed “violence” against, say, statues glorifying old, traitorous racists must be weighed against the daily, systemic violence of institutional poverty, racist policing, absurdly corrupt and racist voter suppression, and a racially-biased healthcare system, the Reverend concluded, “There’s no decibel level on First Amendment rights.”

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Looking for ways to advocate for black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved. Also, maybe lay off the Fox News.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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