By Tolson Banner
Nationwide — Martin Luther King, Jr. (King of Love) in his prophetic way differentiated between the drum major instinct and the drum major. The King of Love warned us of the drum major instinct in which he acknowledged led to a lot of the race problems in America: A need for some people to feel that their white skin ordained them to be first. The reverberations of these racial drum beats have sent seismic shifts through the American soil resulting in the King of Love turning over in his grave so much he has rolled right off of the American soil. The composer of the King of Love’s birthday song, Stevie Wonder, announced he too was feeling these same racial seismic shifts and concluded it was time for him to “roll out” and head for Ghana in Africa.
But a march of any sort requires a drum major to beat out the syncopated rhythm so the marchers keep time. During the 1950s, we marched to a steady drumbeat with synchronized actions: On December 5, 1955, blacks stood in solidarity to launch the Montgomery, AL bus boycott. For 381 days, black people carpooled, walked or hitched rides to their destinations. The bus boycott concluded on December 20, 1956. Our economic solidarity broke the back of Jim Crow. This was a major step we took and a strategy implemented with fervor.
When Colin Kaepernick, the Rosa Parks of the NFL, took a knee to protest police killings of unarmed black people, it sent shock waves through America. When it looked as if we raised our voices as ONE, we were silenced. The NFL orchestrated a PR campaign that made us appear un-American. The constant barrage of police shootings of unarmed black people proved us right. All we had to do was stop watching at least one football game on Sunday and we would have broken the back of the NFL and Kaepernick would be playing today! A misstep? All of us cannot do everything but each of us can do something as illustrated by the Montgomery bus boycott.
Our proverbial march toward justice and freedom has seen us exhausting all conciliatory means to redress our grievances. We witness an aspect of this exhaustion in trying to restore the sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were gutted by the Supreme Court. The Court ruled voting laws formulated by certain states and localities with a history of discrimination no longer needed to be cleared by the federal government before they went into effect. According to TheHill.com, since January 2021, 48 states have introduced 389 bills to mount their voter suppression tactics. It should come as no surprise that both For The People Act and the John Lewis Act hang in the balance as part of our democratic process. Both Acts seek to restore our full voting rights without restrictive measures that suppress our voting power. When Lani Guinier, the first black woman to become a tenured professor at Harvard Law School (certainly not the first qualified), advocated for updating our democracy not many echoed her sentiments, especially in the Civil Rights circles. One update that Guinier espoused was ranked-choice voting which allows voters to rank candidates by preference. Another updating measure was cumulative voting which allows each voter as many votes as there are candidates. A misstep? American democracy says it is fair; her incestuous kin capitalists say it’s ok to be greedy! Can you be fair in greed?
There are numerous untold marches we have undertaken to protest black people being murdered at the hands of the KKK, vigilante gangs, and slave patrols who later morphed into the police.
But in our elation with “good ole Joe,” we got duped into not calling a spade a spade. Black Lives Matter demanded actions to Defund The Police and redirect those funds for social programs to offset the ills of being economic refugees in a land of plenty. The Democratic Party in their quest to gain the edge in Congress rationalized that using the Defund The Police measure might ostracize the very group of red-state voters whose racial intolerance gave birth to the Black Lives Matter Movement. If it walked like a duck, quacked like a duck, they were told not to call it a duck! Huh? A misstep? The result is we continue to wobble in our daily lives.
God only knows how strenuously we marched to eradicate southern Congressmen’s strategies to suppress our human existence on this American soil. One of the tools these Southern Democrats wielded was the filibuster in which they honed as a weapon against civil rights reform. They have used this single procedural rule with impunity. According to the Washington Post, the filibuster has been used to deny Black rights for 100 years. Today, the Democratic Party will not strike down this procedural rule in order to win passage of the John Lewis Act and the For the People Act. Now we are caught between the fox or the wolf, as Malcolm X so eloquently exclaimed years ago. We were Lincoln Republicans following the Civil War and later became Democrats when we were offered a New Deal. An independent party wouldn’t seem so out of step for our progress? A misstep? Leveraging our voting block would yield us a greater return on our investment.
There were some marches where the drum major was offbeat. Marching against systemic racism we were told by two of our drum majors that America was not racist. On the heels of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Atatiana Jefferson, Charleena Lyles, Deborah Danner, and a host of others, Senator Tim Scott hailing from South Carolina, and Vice President Kamala Harris when asked whether America was racist both said a resounding NO! A Paul Lawrence Dunbar translation: “Ifa der is, I ain’t seent nun.” How in the world can we fight against this pernicious system when the drum major tells us we’re the ones offbeat? A misstep? Denying this harsh reality subscribes us to being co-conspirators in our own demise.
For a long time, the Nation of Islam did not participate in the American political system. Finally breaking from tradition, Minister Louis Farrakhan called for a Million Man March in October 1995 and its anniversary 20 years later. As a result, there were some political gains but not enough to sustain our newfound political astuteness. The Bill Alfred Project, a DC-based spoken word and vocal group penned this song commemorating the Million Man March, “Reflections: The Day of the Butterfly.” The lyrics went something like this: “ …time to re-strategize, to reorganize, to re-energize… eyes still on the prize.” Now that WOULD be a right step in the right direction.
Tolson Banner is a writer and the CEO of Black Muzik Xpose’, the nation’s premier black streaming entertainment network. He is also a graduate of Clark Atlanta and Howard Universities. He can be reached at email@example.com
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