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March 2013

A Silencing Tactic That Involves Using Historical Figures

[TRIGGER WARNING: rape, misogyny]

I am irritated by the latest silencing tactic used by many Whites. They pick a Black historical figure, misquote or quote them out of context and then insert the quote into a conversation about race, gender or both, to hopefully silence the Black people who disagree with them.

Their favorites to exploit this way is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (They also misquote him to defend anything that they enjoy, but he clearly opposed. This type of ignorance is willful and the product of White privilege.) I’ve also seen Angela Davis, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and many others used this way.

For example, one of my friends told me about someone who posted a meme on Facebook calling for the end of violence against women. A White male crossed out the word “women” and put “everyone” and when it was questioned, he defended it by quoting Malcolm X out of context. Of course he was called out for his White and male privilege-induced derailment by my friend who noted that violence against women occurred during The Civil Rights Movement, in general, and amidst the Nation Brother Malcolm was a part of, specifically, from Black men upon Black women, even as they critiqued violence inflicted upon Black men by White men. It’s the same thing that occurs today. Many men who commit domestic violence and have raped easily switched hats, or hoodies, if you will, to protest the murder of Trayvon. This happens. In fact, I saw several Black women tweet that they SAW the men who raped them at Trayvon Martin rallies. Intersectional views regarding violence are of no interest to people like this White man who sought to be “right” and silence other Black people (and women of colour/White women, in this case) with his supposed knowledge of a great Black figure, a knowledge which he clearly did not posses anyway (nor was the quote he used even relevant to the discussion).

Purposeful derailment of conversations about gendered violence by using a mass inclusive statement is common silencing tactic. Taking time to discuss gendered violence that disproportionately impacts women, especially Native/American Indian women and Black women in America does not infer the hyperbole that any other violence is “good.” Anyone who assumes this is being willfully ignorant and is attempting to silence. Different topics can take different work and have different targets. Running around yelling violence is bad solves nothing. What violence are we speaking of? In the media/art? Xenophobic violence via America’s imperialism? Domestic violence? Violence that occurs during incarceration? School bullying and fighting in middle school? Ah….so subject-focused conversations are acceptable ONLY when those with privilege control the direction OR are included among the targets of the problematic subject at hand?

The racism, reductionism, slogan-making, misappropriation and anti-critical thinking involved in reducing incredibly nuanced, intelligent, and dynamic Black figures to an afro if Angela Davis, misappropriated quotes if Dr. King, and the word “no” if Rosa Parks reveals the very same delusions regarding history that White supremacy creates and James Baldwin so wrote eloquently about.

I don’t allow Whites to misappropriate the words of Black people who fought/fight against White supremacy as their White punchlines and silencing tactics. What’s amazing is the cognitive dissonance involved in this. They aren’t interested in critiques about racism/sexism so they use quotes by Black people (who also critiqued racism/sexism) to silence Black people who are critiquing it now?

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