Many historically marginalized groups have the ability to address the atrocities done to them. For example, Jewish people are still talking about the Holocaust. The Nazis killed millions of Jews from 1941-1945. Nobody should ever forget that. All races, ethnicities, and cultures should remember their past to avoid a repeat of the horrible events. All groups have this ability–except Black people.
The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other unarmed Black men and women by the hands of police or White vigilantes have put racism front and center. In addition, inequalities in healthcare, home ownership, unemployment, and voting have oppressed Blacks economically, socially, mentally, and spiritually. But since Blacks are the only group that’s not allowed to control its narrative, the question is, “Who does?”
Explaining racism, or race-splaining, is now a billion-dollar industry run mainly by Whites. Once again corporate America and other opportunists have taken a sin they created and leveraged it into a cash cow on the backs of Black people. How is this done over and over again?:
- Co-opt a Black movement without a commitment. In America, most issues that affect Black people aren’t taken seriously unless a White person gets affected or involved. Once Whites “support” a Black movement, it becomes “legitimate,” but often at a price. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement has raised millions of dollars for Democratic causes, yet the Democrats haven’t fully embraced the movement–even after their convention.
- Hijack the narrative. Whites create the rules of engagement and the rules for protest. So, when we protest, we’re always told that our what, our why, our how, our time and/or our place is wrong. As a result, Whites usually hijack the narrative to “set the record straight.” Once they control your narrative, they kill your movement.
- Pivot to a different narrative. After the narrative is hijacked, the goal is to pivot that narrative to something that appeases their own. For example, when Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality, the narrative quickly shifted from police brutality to disrespecting the American flag. Consequently, many “forgot” why Blacks were protesting in the first place. Whites also use language to slide the conversation from racism to more generic terms, like culture or fragility, to dilute the effects of their sin.
- Use Black America to craft the new narrative. Corporate America patronizes Black America by asking what it can do to help. This information helps to craft the new narrative. They’ll reference Black culture, token Black friends, and quote Martin Luther King to pander to Black people while speaking to White people. Remember, the narrative is for White people, not Black people. And if the audience is mainly White, Black America isn’t necessary. Either way, it’s all about making White people feel comfortable, not guilty, or accountable.
- Cash in. White “race experts” use their new narrative to cash in on the backs of Black America. Blacks provide the answers, Whites get paid. Sound familiar? These people travel around hustling their books, programs and speaking engagements for economic gain and “expert” status at our expense. This is an effective business model for “experts” but hurts Black people. (See “The Wages of Woke.”) There are so many people who have been doing hard work in this area for years. Yet, these warriors were ignored then and they’re being bypassed now in favor of opportunists.
The “co-opt and kill” method has killed Black movements for decades. Most movements start with good intentions. Then, outside money and forces often infiltrate to sidetrack or destroy those movements. We must collectively invest in our communities so we won’t be totally dependent on outside influences. This will give us the ability to tell our story. That doesn’t mean we won’t welcome anyone who wants to join our fight against racism. The more help, the better. We just ask you to join the fight, not take it over and cash in on our backs.
This is an opinion piece that does not necessarily reflect the views of BLACK ENTERPRISE.