When you’re talking about anything pro-Black in America, you’re going to run into a crossroads between making Black culture accessible, translatable to White hegemony or making it about elevating and celebrating Black culture in its distinctness from Whiteness. There is no right answer here. It’s just an ever-present decision.
One of the ways that tension gets navigated is the degree to which a text uses cliches. From comforting reassurance and quippy banality to unsettling juxtaposition and strong signifiers of unapologetic Black empowerment, this list of pro-Black Anthems of 2020 demonstrates the variety of ways that speech (in this case song) can challenge, undermine, shape, and respond to the ongoing work of civil rights.
Depending on your criteria, my number 5 might be your number 1 but in the end the point of the ranking isn’t really the ranking; I’m not the Oscars. It’s a thought experiment to demonstrate the tensions constantly plaguing civil rights protest and it also demonstrates the pros and cons of cliches as a rhetorical strategy.
Read the blog version: https://rhetoriclee.com/2020-pro-black-anthems-ranked-by-cliche/
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Alternative lists of pro-Black protest songs
Other resources used in this episode: