Civil Rights Leaders Aren’t Dead, They’re Just in a Headlock


Dr. Cornel West: “Black Prophetic Fire”

by Arthur Banach


Anyone who knows me knows I’m the dorkiest dork when it comes to Hip Hop, so I want to talk about the power of “peaceful” protest leaders like my main man, Dr. Cornel West, through the eyes of Ice-T. Yes Ice-T. Before his TV career, he was a dope MC and if you deny that you’re just hating. Anyway, Ice-T put out a gun-toting track with all the classic pop-a-cap-in-your-ass bravado, but he’s not talking about physical bullets.

“Cops try to flex/but guns they’ll never find/My Lethal Weapon’s my mind!”

That’s why I put the word peaceful in quotation marks earlier. I believe too many people in society underestimate the power behind intellect and rational thought. They’ll claim that protesters are exercising too much passivity. Old-fashioned anchors will say protesters are just sitting around on their asses and talking while the anchors also sit on their asses talking. It’s so easy to throw a punch and to let hatred take over but I think we should take a cue from James Baldwin (a famously eloquent black and gay author) who says, “hatred; which has the power to destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated.” Let’s get real here. How can we expect to challenge a hateful system with more hate, then turn around and ask where all our leaders are? They’re here. They’re beside us. Cornel West got down in the thick of it and was arrested for civil disobedience. Yet we don’t appreciate his actions. We want a Rambo-esque leader to come through and blow away the opposition. Our society today is akin to the Jews who wanted a zealot to decimate the Romans, but instead they got a carpenter who wanted to turn the other cheek. Dr. West gets it. In an interview with Roots drummer (and my personal hero) ?uestlove, West said he was going to Ferguson“to show the young brothers and sisters that we love them. To bear witness. Because too many of them feel unloved, unattended to, uncared for. Marvin Gaye raised the question, “Who really cares?” Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway raised the question, “Where is the love?” We may not be able to change the world, but we’ve got to be able to say, “We do love y’all. And we are going to sacrifice.”

I think that’s part of the reason we choose to be militant and hate: it doesn’t require sacrifice. Love requires sacrifice. Dr. West has sacrificed a lot for his beliefs. He’s rallied against numerous issues with nothing but love in his heart. He’s carried the banner of a truly Christ-like Christian, and as I watch his exploits I contemplate whether we even deserve a man so eloquent in speech and thought. What it boils down to is that I choose to stand with Dr. West. I choose love over hate and as hard as it is I won’t hate Darren Wilson because I don’t disagree with the fact that hate gets shit done, but you can’t deny it has some serious blowback. I’ll just leave you with a lyric from legendary group Public Enemy, who defined the consequences of violence succinctly and poetically:  “This uzi weighs a ton”

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