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Our writer, Michelle Smith, gives voice to black millennials in this election.

Our writer, Michelle Smith, gives voice to black millennials in this election. 

America has been coined as the land of the free(d blacks who are still enslaved) and home of the brave (voices who are silenced through violence). Liberty and justice are not freely given to all. All men are not treated as if they were created equal. Amber waves of grain were once painted with the blood of slaves, and the injustice that was birthed during the times of American chattel slavery has been passed down like an heirloom through the generations. The curse will never end if the issues are not addressed, but unfortunately, those who dare to speak out are either left disappointed, ostracized, or assassinated.


“What am I supposed to do if I don’t like [Trump] and I don’t trust [Clinton]? Choose between being stabbed and being shot?” — Ohio millennial voter

Black voters have a history of identifying as Democrats. On average, since the early nineties, nearly eighty percent of partisan African Americans have affiliated themselves with the party. The ability of black Americans to exercise the right to vote was restricted through legal means, and liberation of that right is directly related to the modern trend in voting. In 1948, President Harry Truman succeeded in winning the election by openly supporting civil rights, and in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law — both were Democrats.

Black voters, specifically millennials, are a key demographic that are not being reached in this election. One such voter was quoted as claiming that Hillary Clinton was “part of the whole problem that started sending blacks to jail.”

The skepticism of the Democratic candidate stems from her past stances on criminal justice issues, which are being amplified due to the wave of black deaths at the hands of police officers. Without African American millennials, there is no Democratic majority. Young people have a history of being apprehensive of participating in the political process, and that discouragement has been exaggerated by the qualities seen in the candidates. More than anything, millennials want change, and this change will not be brought in the form of a presidential candidate, but a revolution.


“Is [Black Lives Matter] not inciting violence? When they block a highway, does that not provoke violence? MLK organized legal protests. He never race-baited, and did not have a call to violence.” — Anonymous

In an effort to discredit current movements against prejudice and injustice, a faulty comparison is made using Dr. King’s ideology of nonviolence. Ignorance of the true substance of the Civil Rights Movement leads the comparers to criticize the methods of protest used today, including blocking traffic and disturbing tranquility — a form of calmness that only comes by ignoring or condoning normalized oppression.

History courses and textbooks depict Dr. King’s nonviolent stance as a form of passiveness, when, in reality, it was the most vocal form of boldness. The Civil Rights Movement was disruptive. It was civilly disobedient; it was illegal. Most importantly, it made Americans uncomfortable. The activists who are now praised, such as Dr. King and Rosa Parks, were once seen as troublemakers and extremists. For the most part, the movement was not supported; for example, 61 percent of Americans disapproved of the actions of the Freedom Riders.

After the death of Philando Castile, protesters took to the streets and blocked eight lanes of highway traffic. The backlash came quickly and aggressively; opponents argued that the demonstration was an insult to the legacy of Dr. King and the effective movement of the sixties. In Selma, Alabama, on March 21, 1965, Dr. King led a march that occupied the entire width of the Edmund Pettus Bridge and blocked traffic. However, instances such as this one are never discussed in conversations concerning “proper” protest.

Protests are not meant to be proper; they are meant to shine light on issues that are hidden away in the depths of systemic, legalized, ignored, and destructive injustices.

It is a complete disservice to criticize a protest without addressing the motivation behind the demonstration. The goal is not to incite violence, but to end violence, but the unfortunate reality is that any form of protest is criticized, for the simple fact that it causes society to address uncomfortable and controversial issues.


“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” — Colin Kaepernick

On September 1, 2016, In an attempt to show respect to military members, while protesting injustice and instances of police brutality, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem. Critics have responded via social media postings, jersey burnings, and football boycotts; anger is being stirred up due to the method of protest, not the reason for protest.

On September 20, 2016, Keith Lamont Scott became the 173rd black person to be fatally shot by law enforcement officers this year. Scott was described as an “imminent deadly threat” to officers investigating an unrelated incident since he was allegedly carrying a handgun, despite no evidence of the possession being seen on dashboard and body cameras.

On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, was put in a chokehold by Daniel Pantaleo, a New York City police officer, while being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner died shortly thereafter due to the physical restraint. Ramsey Orta recorded the ordeal. Pantaleo was not indicted, but coincidentally or not, Orta had several run-ins with the law after the video went viral before eventually accepting a plea deal on charges of selling illegal narcotics. The recorder of the killing is currently sitting in prison, while the killer is still an active member of society.

Despite the evident instances of the kind of injustice that he is challenging, Kaepernick has received an unimaginable amount of retaliation, but his cause is still being ignored and even objected. Protest can not be disassociated from purpose.

“Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight and the glome of the grave: and the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  — Star-Spangled Banner, verse 3

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