Black Radical Resistance


Africana philosopher Dr. Devin Johnson stated that “opposition to oppressive governments is neither protected by the 1st, nor a matter of ‘civil disobedience’ but should be considered something else altogether.” He called it Black Radical Resistance.


Our opposition to this oppressive government is Black Radical Resistance. It is neither civil disobedience nor is it peaceful assembly to publicly express a grievance.




Opposition to oppression is Resistance.


A book I read a while back called Call Me Tuesday by Leigh Byrne comes to mind as an example. Byrne tells the story of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother. In a dramatic scene, Leigh describes how, as a teen, when her mother tried to strike her, she grabbed her mother’s wrist and stopped her.


Imagine Mother’s surprise. Imagine Mother’s realization that this daughter is now big enough to fight back. imagine this Mother’s realization that this daughter isn’t scared anymore. Imagine. Mother sent the daughter away to live with an aunt. The daughter was no longer within her control. She had become unmanageable.


What about this daughter who had endured that abuse? What’s her story? Imagine. 13 years old when she grabbed her Mamma’s wrist and left bruises. 13 years old when she yelled “Don’t you think you’ve punished me enough Mama? Don’t you think I’ve suffered enough for what I did? I can’t take it anymore. I won’t take it anymore.”


That is resistance. It is neither civil disobedience nor any assembly. It is simply resistance to being abused. This is what Dr. Johnson is talking about when he calls the protest we see today Black Radical Resistance. The protests are neither civil disobedience nor are they peaceable assemblies to air public grievances.


Black Lives Matter is Radical Resistance to abuse. Leigh Byrne’s story is fraught with disturbing episodes of the abuse she endured. Black folk, collectively, have story after story, episode after episode, era after era of abuse suffered at the hands of white supremist ideology and institutions embedded in racism.


The Civil Rights Movement may be narrowly classified as civil disobedience because at times they were actually breaking the laws of Jim Crow. Black Lives Matter is not civil disobedience as it’s legally defined. It’s Resistance.


It is Black folk and white folk collectively grabbing the wrist of the abuser saying “Haven’t we suffered enough?” And. More importantly, Black Lives Matter is clearly saying “We won’t take it anymore.


Black Lives Matter and that why there is Black Radical Resistance. Radical in that, unlike the Civil Rights Movement where the askance was inclusion; Black Lives Matter is radical because we’re no longer asking.

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Copyright 2020 Cynthia Alease Smith, Ed.D.