Shaun King is the Senior Justice Writer for the New York Daily News.
When you are living in a moment, it can be hard, almost impossible even, to truly understand the historical context, the weight, the gravity of that moment.
If we could travel back in time to 1955 & 1956, and go to Montgomery, Alabama, we’d find that Rosa Parks and Dr. King didn’t even call that beautiful 381 day boycott of the segregated busing system – The Civil Rights Movement. In fact, that phrase, the Civil Rights Movement, wasn’t created until many years later. It took us reflecting back on that time to realize that it was a part of a broader movement and struggle for our full freedom in this country.
Rosa Parks and Dr. King were just two of thousands of Black folk in Montgomery who were simply sick and tired of being humiliated on the bus. The Montgomery Bus Boycott wasn’t about Black folk wanting to sit next to white folk on the bus. That was never what the Civil Rights Movement was about.
It was about people being humiliated and embarrassed and treated like second class citizens and they had been pushed too far for too long. Black folk weren’t dying to sit at segregated lunch counters so that we could order a vanilla milkshake, but what we wanted to know was that if we ever so chose to sit down and place an order, we simply wanted the legal protection to ensure that we wouldn’t be humiliated or embarrassed.
It’s hard to understand how historical a moment is, when you are in it.
I like to say it like this – Jesus’s last name was not Christ. His parents weren’t Joseph and Mary Christ. In fact, when the Jesus we see in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John died, he wasn’t even popular – even his own crew had bailed out on him, and in that moment, it would have been impossible to perceive just how historically significant he truly was.
I said all of that to say, I believe we are in a historical moment.
Black folk are sick and tired of being sick and tired in America and it’s not just Colin Kaepernick. Dozens and dozens of NFL players are now taking a knee or raising a Black power fist before each and every game during the Star Spangled Banner.
What may be even more powerful is that hundreds and hundreds of elementary, middle, high school, and college students all over America are following their lead and either taking a knee or raising a fist on sports fields and courts everywhere.
They are tired of injustice.
For over two years now, hundreds of thousands of us have protested and marched in every major city in America over police brutality. We don’t march and protest because we like to march and protest – in the words of J. Cole – “all we wanna do is be free.”
The young people all over this nation who are blocking traffic and shutting down interstates don’t enjoy putting their bodies in harm’s way. They are doing the only thing they know how to do to get this country to see that they’ve had enough. They, too, are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Last year in the United States, 1,207 people were killed by American police officers. That’s the highest number ever recorded in this history of this nation.
At least 102 fully unarmed Black men, women, and children were shot and killed by American police last year. Let me give that some context.
We would have to go all the way back to 1902 – to find a single year where more than 102 African Americans were lynched in this country. In other words, we are living in a day age where more unarmed black folk are being shot and killed by police every year than were lynched in any year in the past 100 years.
A lot of people say what I’m about to say because they think it’s true but it isn’t. They say, “police brutality isn’t actually getting worse, it’s just that social media allows us to be more informed.”
No, it’s getting worse. Social media may indeed keep us better informed, but it is keeping us better informed of a worsening problem.
It feels so painful, so traumatic, so frustrating – because we are experiencing widespread pain unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile this summer were a tipping point for many people, but here we are, pushed all the way to our limits, only for us to continue to see more and more police shootings continue to happen.
We’ve protested, we’ve marched, we’ve tweeted and Facebooked and Instagrammed, our athletes are taking knees and raising fists, but I think we’ve reached the point where it’s time for us to let our money do the talking.
It’s time for our own Montgomery Bus Boycott. If our cities and states refuse to take police brutality seriously, if they refuse to pass meaningful reforms that will drastically reduce the number of people shot and killed by police, if they refuse to respond to our pain and our pleas with any substance, we must do now what we have done before -and we must consider a serious, sustained boycott of the cities and companies which continue to get in the way of these reforms.
God bless all of the petitions that we continue to sign, but I can only speak for myself – I’m tired of signing petitions. I’m tired of retweeting about the change I want to see. I’m at a point where I need to see the change for myself.
For the past two years, we’ve all made the world aware of what our problems are, but now, now it’s time for us to pivot from awareness to change, from awareness to reform and I believe it’s time that we have our own Montgomery Bus Boycott moment.
In the past week, at InjusticeBoycott.com – over 100,000 men and women from all 50 states have signed on to say that they agree and on December 5th of this year, we are launching what I believe will be the biggest Civil Rights Boycott this nation has seen since Montgomery.
We can do this! We’ve done it before. We can do it again!
This is our moment to make it clear that enough is enough. We are too powerful and too beautiful to let the foolishness go on.