The #blacklivesmatter movement has been no stranger to controversy. In its short existence it has garnered a reputation for being anti-American, a race-baiting organization, and, most recently — tapping into the fear zeitgeist for many white Americans — a domestic sleeper cell of terrorists. Reaction to #blacklivesmatter has at times even transcended racial identity, with critics accusing it of being “uncoordinated,” “loud” and “ineffective,” or reducing its most visible torchbearers — the protestors who have clogged everything from highways to brunch spots, to city hall, to the DNC — with derisive claims that they are shiftless, unthinking, unemployed, idealistic people with lots of energy and little planning in much the same way that the country has discredited other system disruptors like the Bernie and Occupy camps.
It has also spawned another type of reaction too; the most popular combative rhetorical retorts to #blacklivesmatter have been across-the-aisle brand battle cries of #alllivesmatter or #bluelivesmatter. It’s made the conversation around it all feel like we’re wading into increasingly turbulent waters while one side yells “Marco!” and the other side yells “Polo!,” all resulting in a stalemate. That the conversation on race now feels inescapable for folks only begins the long road toward empathy about the everyday experience for many Black Americans who feel we’ve had no choice but to navigate this country’s implicit and explicit unequal racial codes. From schools, to employment, to voting, to police interactions, it’s always been a sink-or-swim experience for us, and given the racial animus here, it’s often felt more like sinking. To quote David Foster Wallace (out of context): “this is water.”
That’s what I thought about when 20-year-old Simone Manuel emerged from the pool — breaking the surface and making history when she not only set a new Olympic record in the women’s 100-meter freestyle swimming, but also became the first African-American female to win gold in an individual swimming event. Read more »