“Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
The Latin genesis of the word protest is pro(forth, publicly), and testari (assert). To protest is to assert publicly an objection to a grievance, an injustice, a repression. It’s purpose is to garner attention, to make people uncomfortable, forcing both a visceral reaction that eventually leads to introspection and change about the highlighted situation. It is a long-term strategy, not an instant popularity contest.
Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr were the paragons of organized non-violent protest to expose racism, repression, economic injustice. They are lionized today as heroes, celebrated with national holidays, yet their visions are not yet realized. Progress was made for sure, but Gandhi didn’t even celebrate Indian independence. He was too mournful and protesting the sectarian violence occurring. Same could be said about King. His inspiring “I have a dream” speech galvanized a movement yet he was still protesting racial and economic injustice to the day he, like Gandhi, were assassinated.
In its time of happening, non-violent protestors get vilified, hurled with disgusting invectives, spit upon, jailed, and yes even lose their right to a job. King wasn’t popular in his civil disobedience campaign. He interfered with commerce, the status quo. It made many uncomfortable. That’s what it’s supposed to do!
Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic torch in the opening to the 1996 Atlanta Games. He had become a national shrine, emblematic of the American spirit. This admiration certainly wasn’t prevalent in 1967 when the boxing champion confronted the draft, the Vietnam War, and racism in America. He didn’t dodge the draft as many of us did in that day, he publicly rebuked it and the racial overtones of the war and of the draft. Disproportionately black draftees fighting the “yellow man” thousands of miles away. Vietnam, like Africa, were European colonized and exploited and it was Ali that shone that light. His boxing license was revoked for three and a half years during the prime of his career and earning potential.
Colin Kaepernick started a protest against police brutality and racism over a year ago by kneeling thru the National Anthem. He is now being blackballed evoking images of McCarthyism. Trump, in his disgraceful divisive way, threw gasoline on the smoldering protest by calling them sons of bitches and exhorting owners to fire them. He only galvanized the protest movement and perhaps unwittingly brought new life to it.
It is quite the apt metaphor when mostly white crowds boo predominately black players for non-violently protesting black discrimination by kneeling during a 2-3 minute playing of the National Anthem. It worked as it is supposed to work.