The 1950s and 1960s were a period of protest and continued struggle for social justice and equality for black Americans. It was during the middle of this movement, in 1965, that the Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama occurred. This march was organized as part of the effort to register black voters in the South, especially in Alabama. During the march, “protesters marching the 54-mile route from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery were confronted with deadly violence from local authorities and white vigilante groups”.
This is eerily similar to the fairly recent Ferguson, Missouri protests that occurred in 2014 as a result of the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old black American named Michael Brown.
Protestors wanted to “speak out against what many saw as yet another example of police brutality against young black men” (Lopez), but the situation escalated “when police reacted to protesters, even those acting peacefully, with military-grade equipment, such as armored vehicles, tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound cannons” (Lopez).
The song “Glory” by Common and John Legend relates to both of these events. While it is a song for the movie Selma, it compares the events that occurred in Selma in 1965 to the events of recent times. Common and John Legend describe how the struggles for racial equality in the 1950s and 1960s are still present today. Through “Glory,” Common and John Legend are able to illustrate how people today have stood up and protested for what they believe in—social injustice and police brutality.
They want to give hope and inspire people today to rise up and fight for the issues they believe in just like Martin Luther King Jr.
did during the Civil Rights Movement. Benjamin Hoffman and Talya Minsberg’s article “The Deafening Silence of Colin Kaepernick” discusses a contemporary issue that is closely related to the issues described in “Glory.” In 2016, Colin Kaepernick, a professional football free-agent, started kneeling and protesting during the national anthem, which in turn caused him to be blacklisted from the National Football League. In their article, Hoffman and Ginsberg look into Colin Kaepernick’s social media and public presence to analyze why Kaepernick decided to protest, which is mainly to “…to raise awareness of racism, social injustice and police brutality against ‘black people and people of color’”.
They also use his social media presence and public silence to explain how he is influencing and continuing the movement that he started even with the fact that he does not publicly voice his opinions coupled with the fact that he is not playing in the NFL anymore. Hoffman and Ginsberg argue that Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem and the withholding of his own opinions help further the movement against social injustice and police brutality that he has created. Common and John Legend’s “Glory” sheds light on the reasons why Kaepernick started protesting, a topic that Hoffman and Ginsberg do not go in-depth on. But Hoffman and Ginsberg are able to expand on one of the central messages of the song—standing up and protesting against social injustice and police brutality.
In the song “Glory,” Common and John Legend describe the persistent struggle of people of color against racial inequality through their own point of view as black Americans. Throughout the song, Common and John Legend use personal pronouns, such as “we,” which gives a sense that their intended audience is people of color. In addition, the use of personal pronouns like “we” means that Common and John Legend are invested in the movement to end social injustice and police brutality and against the oppressors of the black community. On the other hand, in the article “The Deafening Silence of Colin Kaepernick,” Hoffman and Minsberg are more objective in their argument. This is most likely because the song “Glory” targets an audience with a limited demographic—people of color. Hoffman and Minsberg’s article targets an audience with a more broad demographic and their argument is directed towards fans of football or just have a basic knowledge of who Colin Kaepernick is. This audience includes various groups of people racially and people with views from all over the political spectrum.
Throughout “Glory,” Common and John Legend repeat the message that black Americans must resist their oppressors and those who target people of color just because of race. Common and John Legend mention that “…resistance is us/ That’s why Rosa sat on the bus/ That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up”. Common and John Legend are using the example of Rosa Parks in their to support the central message of their song. In 1955, Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus for a white passenger. This is one of the first signs of black Americans resisting segregation laws that had been passed fairly recently. Her resistance sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the creation of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s during which black Americans fought for equality in the United States. Fast forward half a century, Common and John Legend are drawing a parallel between the Ferguson protests and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In 1955, Rosa Parks was standing up for her rights as an American citizen while in 2014, the people of Ferguson, Missouri were standing up for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old killed by a white police officer.
Common and John Legend also present hope for black Americans by declaring that “They say, ‘Stay down,’ and we stand up/ Shots, we on the ground, the camera panned up”. Common and John Legend are using a call to action to inspire people of color to not give up and continue fighting for racial equality and against police brutality. They want black Americans to continue rising up against oppression even if local authorities use force and violence to try to stop them as they did in Ferguson. In “The Deafening Silence of Colin Kaepernick,” Hoffman and Minsberg’s analysis of Kaepernick’s actions displays how Kaepernick is acting upon Common and John Legend’s message in “Glory.” Kaepernick’s main goal for protesting during the national anthem is that he wanted “…to raise awareness of racism, social injustice and police brutality against ‘black people and people of color’”.
This goal of Kaepernick’s is based upon the same ideas that “Glory” was produced—continued social injustice and police brutality against black Americans. Kaepernick, though, has brought this issue up on a much bigger stage than “Glory” and has made much more impact on American society than “Glory” did. By kneeling during the national anthem, Kaepernick has shown resistance against the oppressors of black Americans and is standing up for all black Americans and people of color. In “Glory,” Common and John Legend articulate that “the biggest weapon is to stay peaceful”. This message is extremely powerful as it encourages black Americans to take the higher ground and not respond to their oppressors with violence. If black Americans were to use violence as an answer to their oppressors, it would be a detriment to their fight against social injustice and police brutality, and it would show that black Americans will stoop to the lower level of their oppressors to achieve their goal.
Using violence is exactly what Colin Kaepernick is not doing. Kaepernick seems to have taken Common and John Legend’s message to heart because of the way he presents himself on social media and in public. Looking at Hoffman and Minsberg’s analysis of Kaepernick, readers can see that the “majority of the posts are retweets or posts under his name where he is simply sharing the words of others”. This shows that Kaepernick is choosing to withhold his own opinions and is choosing to stay silent. Even though many Americans have criticized his form of protest, Kaepernick has stood his ground by staying silent and peaceful just as the song “Glory” has advised. This silence has helped further his cause and keep the message for his protest during the national anthem focused. Kaepernick further expands on this idea of staying peaceful when he makes a rare public appearance in the Netherlands to accept the Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award.
During his acceptance speech, he reiterated the original rationale of his protesting during the national anthem. He also provided the audience with the message “…our love…is a beautiful form of defiance against a system that seeks to suppress our humanity” (Hoffman and Ginsberg). This is very similar to Common and John Legend’s “the biggest weapon is to stay peaceful” (Common – Glory Lyrics) statement in their song. Common, John Legend, and Colin Kaepernick all have the same intentions—to peacefully fight for racial equality and against police injustice across the United States. Kaepernick’s own statement highlights his motivations for protesting. The authors, Hoffman and Ginsberg, include Kaepernick’s message about having love for each other to help emphasize his good intentions and portray him as a good American citizen.