28 Black People That Make White People Uncomfortable (Deacons For Defense)

Today marks the start of Black History Month. The month where all the little kids do projects about MLK and Rosa Parks and learn about inventions and stuff. The month where it’s fine to bring your Obama or MLK coffee mug to work. The month where as a nation we celebrate idealized and sanitized images of people in a way that doesn’t make white folks uncomfortable and allows for the most uncontroversial and bland discussions of race.

In other words, I’m sick of it. As a kid once I got a failing grade because I did a project about Huey P. Newton and the John Frey murder because it was “inappropriate.” I’m sick of it being only cool to express Blackness in a context that doesn’t make the majority uncomfortable or fits neatly within stereotypes and the “whitewashed” history. Thus I would like to take each day this month to celebrate a hero of  what I call Making White People Uncomfortable Month.

Today’s honorees are the Deacons for Defense and Justice

The Deacons for Defense arose in the South in the 60s during the height of retaliatory Klan activity. And they were absolutely bad motherfuckers. A group of men in Jonesboro, LA, mostly WWII veterans, joined together in arms to protect civil rights activists and NAACP workers. Founded and led by “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick, they organized chapters in other parts of Louisiana and eventually organized chapters throughout the South. They carried arms openly, and provided protection for many of the “non-violent” components of the Movement, including Freedom Riders. In situations where protesters were brutalized they often drove to the scene and loaded their weapons in plain sight, which usually ended the violence. Their actions against the Klan played a direct role in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They were true champions at making white folks uncomfortable. And you thought you were doing something when people lock their car doors when you walk past.

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