Black Lives Matter activists have shed the cartoonish image of black activism and introduced a campaign full of grit.
I have always been a fan of wrestling and sports-entertainment, and as a result, I tend to look at business and activism in a manner that is, as a collaborator of mine calls it, “McMahonish,” referring to the creative and demanding nature of WWE Chairman, Mr. Vince McMahon.
Mr. McMahon, someone I admire from a distance, in the late 90’s spoke to a live audience on Monday Night Raw and introduced the Attitude Era, a creative campaign that would push the envelope of what’s expected in television and do away with the cartoonish gimmicks his company, then the WWF, was known for.
Gone were the days of larger than life bad and good guys, and entered years of oral sex references, penis jokes, flashes of breast, a** cheeks and, on occasions, homoeroticism.
The change in direction produced meaningful results for the company, most notably, driving the other wrestling promotions out of business.
As I think about the Attitude Era, I’m also forced to draw parallels between that and the Black Lives Matter movement, which has, for the most part, shed the cartoonish and docile image of black activism, and introduced a campaign that’s full of grit, rage, originality, creativity, spirit, individuality and collective assertiveness.
The movement, like Mr. McMahon’s Attitude Era, is, to a degree, about shock and awe. But the movement has a greater mission than just attracting eyeballs and cultivating loyalty among the public.
The movement, which is ushering in the “New Attitude Era,” is attempting to change laws and the perceptions and hearts of those who are indifferent or in support of racism and police violence.
The activists in this movement are not like those bought-and-sold characters that preceded them nor are they seeking a title, only justice.
They aren’t waiting their turn to get bumped up the roster, which measures their importance; instead, they’re inserting themselves into the spaces they want to be in and then commanding the audience.
Sometimes that space is where a police commissioner is giving a lecture; or in a busy City street guarded by the police who are the subject of the protest; or in front a Philadelphia television studio that’s shooting a live morning show; or in a Oakland grocery store whose security guard badly beat a young black man who was attempting to purchase his overpriced groceries with an EBT card.
Equaling the defiance of Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was popular for routinely giving Mr. McMahon (the on-air persona) the middle finger, some activists who either march along Black Lives Matter activists or are affiliated with the movement often flip off police and some direct profanity at them, an anger that results from long-term oppression, real or perceived.
The greatest contrast, however, of the “Attitudes Eras,” is that one was physical –competition against a physical entity – and the other wrestles with a mentalities and racist systems.
Mr. Asa Khalif, an activist affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movements in Philadelphia and New York City, often says “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, wickedness in high places and rulers of the air,” a loosely worded replica of a bible verse found in Ephesians.
The rulers of the air: the media.
The principalities: the oligarchy that trumps government procedures over humanity.
The wickedness: police killing African-Americans and persons of color with impunity.
As with Mr. McMahon’s Attitude Era, the justice orientated one has its critics. But those critics, like with the action in the ring, can’t turn their eyes away; and that’s what caused Mr. McMahon to succeed and that’s how the activists fighting to persevere black life will overcome.
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™