By Candace McDuffie/The Root
As social media continues to react to the infamous Montgomery brawl that happened over the weekend, Black folks have been the most boisterous when it comes to the commentary surrounding it. From Black Panther comparisons to dubbing the fight Riverboat Wrestlemania, the jokes have seemingly been endless. Interestingly enough, the remarks happen to be rooted in humor that stems from a deeper and far more complex place.
And sadly, it’s a place that Black folks are all too familiar with. The fight started when a group of white men assaulted a lone Black dock worker who was doing his job by asking the group to move their pontoon boat (the boat was blocking a riverboat from docking). The response from the white men was one that kept in line with American history—to brutalize a Black person when they felt inconvenienced by them.
Racist violence against Black people has been always been made a public spectacle. After the Civil War, photographs of lynchings were published as postcards featuring racist text until it was banned by the United States Postal Service in 1908. That practice has been barbarically reincarnated as Black people being killed on video, with the footage being replayed on the internet.
Justice for us is a rarity and often when we try to achieve it, we are victim-blamed and held responsible for our own demise. What we saw in Montgomery was not just an incredible show of unity amongst Black people, but the opposite of what we are used to seeing. This time when a Black man was being attacked by white people, he—and folks who stepped in on his behalf—fought back.
This is vital in both a broader historical context as well as a more localized one. As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones pointed out: “If you understand the history of Montgomery — one of the most prolific slave-trading cities in the U.S. turned brutally repressive apartheid regime after, and majority Black but JUST got its first Black mayor — it gives so much more perspective to this video.”
Black folks have been cutting up ever since we got wind of what went down in Montgomery and for good reason. We live in a society that will do whatever it takes to uphold white supremacy and the violence that comes along with it. What happened at the dock that day reminded us that there is power in community and simply that Black folks have had enough.