Since the arrival of Black people in this country, there has been an agenda and a mandate to repress Black voices. The American government works tirelessly to stop Black voices from being heard and even just existing. The definition of political repression is the act of a state entity controlling citizens by force for political reasons, particularly for the purpose of restricting or preventing the ability of the citizens to take part in the political life of a society. Although this is political repression, the repression of Black voices affects all facets of the Black experience at a social and economic level.
There is the fear of three Black entities: Black identity, Black spaces, and Black power. The Black identity is almost a dichotomy to how Black people see themselves and the conflict of coping and surviving under an oppressive government. Black spaces serve as a place of community for Black people. These spaces could include churches, social organizations, schools, and even universities, as they are important in creating a community for Black people who are not allowed in mainstream white places. Lastly, Black power is seen as very dangerous and the idea of Black self-determination and Black militancy demands aggressive revolution against racist America.
In my opinion, there are four reasons for Black voices to be repressed in America. The first reason is the fear of Blackness. The fear of Blackness includes not just Black existence, but also the demand for Black liberation. This outward and blatant expression for the end of oppression of Black people by American society and government has always been seen as breaking the status quo and stepping out of place. When Black people do this, they are automatically seen as a threat to American society overall.
The second reason is wanting social justice on their own terms. In the desire for social justice, white people only allow the advocacy that they themselves can control. Examples of this would be the theory of assimilation by Booker T. Washington or the Civil Rights Movement. At this point, it is a reason for Black repression as white people are content with the desegregation and stepping into these spaces and desiring reform instead of militant revolution.
The third reason for Black repression is the fact that it is generational and the idea of upholding white supremacy against Black people. Black oppression has lasted from slavery to lynchings, mass incarceration to police brutality, and from the War on Drugs to Hurricane Katrina. With these generations and centuries of Black voices being repressed, the overall attitude is to try and keep Black people, second-class citizens.
The final reason for repression is the use of white propaganda. The negative portrayals that have been shown over centuries have contributed to the notion that Black people are people that need to be controlled. This idea that Black people should be repressed and society should refrain from them and that they are not qualified or worthy of American citizenship has led to individual media representations from media and entertainment to strategic approaches such as Jim Crow and police brutality.
The American government uses different tactics to oppress Black Americans. These methods include complex systems ingrained in the American psyche that are challenging to dismantle and the repression is systematic, generational, and intentional. There are other tactics that are used against Black Americans that are even still used today. One of these methods is criminalization and the notion of Black people being criminals has led to the thought of imprisoning Black bodies to silence them or to restrict their connection to the Black community. Criminalization has been done through the use of police terror, mass incarceration, and police brutality.
Another method is the use of government infiltration with the desire to corrupt and disrupt Black spaces. This is done through the use of political parties, the FBI, police interactions, and programs such as COINTELPRO. There is also the use of murder and exile. Many Black men and women have died or have been exiled because of their involvement in Black liberation. This also is the result of the lack of protection from their government and state because they were seen as dangerous and had to be stopped or silenced in an effort to prevent Black liberation. Black people who have died or been exiled in the name of Black liberation include Dr. Martin Luther King, Fred Hampton, George Jackson, and Assata Shakur, who were exiled in 1984.
One of the most basic methods used by the American government towards Black people, in particular, includes censorship. Under the U.S. Constitution, all citizens have the right to freedom of speech. By definition, freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. Although this freedom is supposed to be guaranteed to all citizens, Black voices are censored through the use of media censorship, the negative portrayal of Black protesting, and negative Black imagery. Secondly, one of the biggest tactics of Black repression on all fronts is voter suppression. The vote is the most basic expression of citizenship and this generational and systematic agenda is used by the Black vote because it is powerful.
With this complex entity of Black repression of Black voices, there are steps that can be taken to try to break this cycle. There is this idea of building communities with educational resources, nonprofit organizations, and grassroots organizing. This can be done with the acknowledgment of the past, education along with conversation, and racial healing. One can also be involved with the liberation struggle itself and work towards Black liberation by forming coalitions, social media, and community building. This seems like a great feat for our country to overcome, but every generation births new leaders and people who want liberation for Black people. Hopefully, the desire for the repression of Black voices will end in one’s lifetime and grant liberation to Black people, in which we have fought for so long.
In power and community,
Kameryn C. Thigpen