By Michael Harriot
I don’t remember the exact moment I first heard the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” but I thought it was perfect.
It encapsulated the frustration, anger and desperation of the entire movement and culture. It perfectly explained the reason I drove 10 hours and sweated in the hot Ferguson son immediately after Mike Brown’s death. It made clear the reason why I trekked to Baltimore to watch C.V.S.s burn. It told why black fists were raised from arms connected to weeping faces. It was a plea. It was a motto. It was an angry chant. It was a prayer. Black. Lives. Matter
Then White people shitted on it.
Their supernatural egos wanted in on the pity and anger. They insisted “White lives matter too,” as if there was ever any doubt. When even conservative pundits thought that too stupid to even argue, they moved on to “Blue lives”–insisting to anyone who would listen that the people holding the guns, the authority of the state and the power of the judicial system, shouldn’t be taken to task for cold-blooded murder. They knew the whole “Blue lives” thing was a shot in the dark, but Wyte pee-pull can’t stand not to be mentioned or included in any dialogue. If you doubt this hypothesis and would like to test this theory, simply mention how White people voted for an out-of-the-closet racist for President and see how long it takes before a safety-pin clad caucasian taps you on the shoulder and explains–in their best ally voice–“not me.”
After muddying the argument against Black Lives, they somehow pulled a spectacular abracadabra and convinced the entire lot of the melaninless majority that Black Lives Matter was a “terrorist organization” and “hate group.” Whatever you think of White people, you have to admire the sheer audacity and efficiency of their propaganda that managed to turn “please respect our lives and let us live” into hate speech. Those motherfuckers are good.
But since 2008, Black people won’t stay in their place. It is part of the narrative that got Trump elected. Even though crime is down to historic lows, White people believe inner cities (pronounced “blak nay-bore-hoods”) to be crime-ridden post apocalyptic hellholes rife with marauding negro nightmares. Even though net Mexican immigration is negative (More Mexicans cross the border leaving the US than those crossing it to gain illegal entry to America) White people still believe they need to build a wall. And they believe Black folks have given up fighting Black on Black crime, raising their children and concentrating on education–all so they can hop on the Black Lives Matter, I-hate-white-people bandwagon.
Well I’m tired of fighting them on all fronts. I’m tired of defending a catchphrase and a hashtag instead of the ideas and movements they represent. I think we need a new phrase. In fact, I don’t think we need a phrase or a hashtag at all, because people of no color would just steal it the same way they stole #BlackLivesMatter, free labor, the Electric Slide, rhythm, blues, jazz and Jesus. As we face the trials that will accompany at least four years of living through a Trump administration, I think it is time we march the movement firmly into the new millennium by taking the the symbol of the movement from a hashtag, to a universally understood sign that transcends language and the written word.
We need a n emoji. Something strong like the Black fists of the Black Power movement that voices our dissatisfaction with the current state of the State. Something conciliatory like the brief moment we had for “Hands up, don’t shoot” before, again, White people took it and–(Sigh. How the fuck can you demonize someone for putting their hands in the air and asking you not to shoot? Don’t answer that, because Wytepee-pull may hear you and it might give them ideas). Anyway, we need something dangerous, but cool. Something universally understood. I know exactly what it should be. These hands:
Black people have always had magic in their hands. One of my favorite stories in all of our history is the tale of Dave Drake. Dave was a master potter and a slave in Edgefield, SC. He created huge clay jugs that rich slaveowners from all over the South would trek to Dave’s plantation to buy. Dave had a secret mixture of clay and he would form African faces on these jugs. Supposedly Dave’s jugs could refrigerate in the summer and keep things warm in the winter. Here was the beautiful thing about Dave. During a time when it was forbidden for a slave to read or write, Dave inscribed his jugs with poetry. It was an act of sedition and beauty. What was so ingenious about Dave’s poetry was that these too-valuable-to-break jugs that spread all over the south were inscribed with poems that were actually secret directions to runaway slaves trying to reach north.
Ain’t that just like us?
Ain’t that just like black hands–to churn sedition and freedom out nothing but dirt and poems? Ain’t that part of that magical negro elixir that flows through all of our fingers? The ones that turn tightly coiled, frantic nappiness into cornrows? Black hands can Rumplestiltskin gold joy out of nothing but Psalms and pain. Black hands are tough enough to hold off the hungry wolves in whiteface trying to devour us whole. Black hands are soft enough to be both pamper-changer and bacon-bringer.
Most of all, Black hands can fight like a motherfucker.
These hands can.
These hands picked enough cotton to make this brand new baby nation into a superpower in no time flat.
These hands folded into silent prayer when Birmingham mobs tossed molotov cocktails onto busses with teenagers trying to get home. And get free.
These hands were splattered with blood on a balcony outside a Memphis hotel
These hands picked up bits of brain and bone inside the Audobon ballroom.
These hands hid inside a glove and raised themselves to the sky on an Olympic podium.
They block oppression like uppercuts from the universe. Ain’t no Viet Kong ever called them “nigger.” They are thrown in the air. They wave like they just don’t care. They symbolize the beautiful, gut-wrenching story of Every Black frustration that ever was or will be. These hands are like big-lipped pots from Dave the slave. They are like us. They are not easily broken. There is poetry in them.
So instead of hashtagging social media, download the #DeezHands emoji (from the Imoji app free in the Apple app store and the Google Play Store, just search for #DeezHands) and use this new emoji like:
However, unlike Black Lives Matter or anything else they tried to steal from us, they will never be able to take #DeezHands. But if they keep it up…
They just might catch them.