Historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad says the nationwide protests seen in response to events in Ferguson amount to a 21st century social movement. Muhammad says the cry for Black Power has given way to #BlackLivesMatter.
Commentators like historian Andy Seal see that as a retreat — African Americans no longer asking for power or resources, but simply pleading for the barest minimum — "the right not to die prematurely."
Muhammad asks in a piece in The Guardian, "what if this moment is also a return to first principles: the necessary assertion of the humanity of black life by the democratic crowd beyond the legal fictions of equality?"
Muhammad says the issues brought up by the events in Ferguson and New York and other cities echo, with almost the same language, earlier debates. He says there is another historical echo in the case of Bill Cosby — what his problems and the demonstrations this year show is the limits of politics based on respectability.
Muhammad says the hope in #BlackLivesMatter is that it may move the country to recognize that black people don't have to be perfect to be deserving of full legal and human rights. They just have to be human.
- Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library and author of, “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America.” He tweets @KhalilGMuhammad.
This segment aired on December 5, 2014.