In the U.S.’s debate over free-speech politics, Black Americans lose: Domise

Good piece by Andray Domise:

Where Black identity is concerned, all speech is political speech. In a social environment where principals suspend students, coaches expel players, and spectators are confident shouting slurs and dumping beer on the heads of silent protesters (in an eerily similar fashion to the pro-segregationists who showed up to the Woolworth’s lunch counter to remind integrationists just who was in charge), Black people and public figures find themselves in the exact double-bind Jemele Hill described. When other Black Americans face state-sanctioned violence and injustice, does one choose their profession and education, and even their personal safety? Or should they choose the community they represent?

In September, after Hill was reprimanded for her tweet about Trump being a white supremacist, ESPN president John Skipper issued a memo to employees:“ESPN is not a political organization,” he wrote. “Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express.” Later in the memo, Skipper writes: “…we have social media policies which require people to understand that social platforms are public and their comments on them will reflect on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal.”

As I’ve mentioned before, those most violently affected have the most to lose by speaking up about white supremacy. ESPN may see itself as an apolitical organization, but it cannot avoid politics where they’ve been brought into the game by players, coaches, owners, and the President and Vice-President of the United States. Suspending a Black journalist for discouraging lateral violence among football fans is necessarily a political position. Going by ESPN’s reasoning, Hill may comment on what she sees on the field, but the conversation happening off the field, even when it involves her own community, is deemed off-limits.

Universities and high schools may see themselves in a similar light—existing outside of politics—but the personal politics of their staff, when allowed to supersede the right of students to speak out for the modern civil rights movement, make that impossible. There is no avoiding politics on the matter of Black lives. There is only the exercise of free speech in the face of oppression, or the complicity in enforcing silence among the oppressed.

By hiding behind an “apolitical” stance, and punishing Black people who dare speak up about an unjust system, institutional politics in America are clear. And they just happen to line up perfectly with a white supremacist President who demands Black Americans be punished for engaging in peaceful protest. The question isn’t whether or not speaking, tweeting, or kneeling is appropriate. It’s whether those with the ability and willingness to silence protest, while claiming a false neutrality, will ever realize whose side they’re taking.

Source: In the U.S.’s debate over free-speech politics, Black Americans lose – Macleans.ca

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: