Image: Our Strongest Voice

Anthony Delaware, Savannah College of Art and Design 

How do we protest inequality? How do we effectively respond to injustices against our own in order to construct and lead social change? How do we as a people, deserving of what should be the unalienable respect to attain life liberty and pursuit of happiness, demonstrate that we are equally deserving of the name, American?

 Image.

Our most effective tactic, and our biggest statement is our image. Our image is our currency we pay in exchange for social equality. It is our promise to society. It is how we communicate our contribution to our nation to better the American people. No other form of protest has been as powerful in softening stubborn bigotry as our image.

Of course in talking about image as black American’s form of protest, we must acknowledge image set by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in efforts to protest racial injustice. One of the most historic acts of image-protest was the bus boycott. After the unjust arrest of Rosa Parks, Dr. King, led black Americans in this peaceful protest. In doing so, he illustrated a peaceful people. When his followers banded together to create carpooling services for one another, they painted a picture of a supportive and united people. In taking part in the yearlong protest and endurance of harassment by white Americans until the desegregation of city buses, black people created an image of hardworking, determined people who deserving the right to be respected like white Americans. This act of image-protest moved black Americans one step closer to not just political equality, but also social equality.

Social equality has always been the end goal of this war. It’s a small victory to have rights, but an everlasting victory if those rights are respected. And how do we gain social equality through image-protest?

Answer: in all things we do, we must generate an image that is demanding of respect. How we dress, what we answer to, how we act, how we speak, who we love, and those we choose not to hate—this is our image- our protest. If we are laboring for a social change, then we must change the image society expects. We must hold ourselves to a high standard. This means actively shaming the negative image that has been placed on us by living out a positive image everyday. It’s our responsibility to uphold this standard and hold our fellow black Americans to this standard. It is up to us to put to shame acts of misogyny, greed, provocation, aggression, alcohol and drug abuse, and all other stigmas that have been placed upon black Americans. For if black Americans glorify negative behavior, we aspire to be and undignified people. Instead, we must, in all circumstances, be honorable, faithful, truthful, loving, and good-natured.

If we as a people can collectively generate our best image, only then will we demand the respect that we deserve. We as a people can be not just black Americans, but Americans.—equal, dignified, respectable.