Shaun King spent a night preaching the values of patience on social justice, addressing not just the crowd gathered at the main stage of Williams College’s ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, but the overflow crowds all across the campus as well.
The most important lesson King wanted the audience to take away last Thursday was the speed of social movements. King promised that the election of Trump was not a reversal in progress, but just a slowing of its motion.
“The election of Donald Trump didn’t make sense to us because we all thought human progress was linear,” King said. “But it’s not linear. It’s like a roller coaster, with peaks and valleys. And right now we’re in a dip in the quality of humanity, a historic low on metric after metric. But it’s a dip we can work our way out of.”
A lot of people struggled with the idea of a Trump election, especially in regards to the supposed “post-racial” America that was meant to be built upon the election of Barack Obama as the United States’ first African-American President. King wanted his audience to know that Trump’s win in November wasn’t a repudiation of Obama’s electoral victory, but another roadblock in the way to true social change.
King is listed as the “Senior Justice Writer” at the “New York Daily News” and is a commentator on “The Young Turks,” a progressive-leaning news broadcast that leans toward opinionated news coverage which took off on YouTube. King first came to prominence as a reporter covering the Black Lives Matter movement, offering it the humanity and legitimacy some felt mainstream media had deprived of Black Lives Matter.
MCLA junior Kimberly Murphy attended the lecture having followed King’s work since he released a 25 part series regarding possible solutions to reducing police brutality – a work that spawned from the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
“He utilized one particular concept throughout that underlined that progression is not something that works in a linear manner,” Murphy said. “Referring back to statements like, ‘What is this, the ’60s?’, he wanted to make it clear that a society does not progress continuously upward, that there has always been defects in human progression – such as slavery and the Holocaust – while underlining that there needs to be a severe push to get out of those descents.”
Murphy was struck by King’s presentation of the United States’s ever-growing incarceration problem, which the political commentator linked back to an overt effort by the government to suppress the growth of the African-American community.
King drew comparisons back to The War on Drugs. Crack cocaine usage exploded in the 80s, often in poorer African American communities. These laws further widened a gap in incarceration between African-Americans and whites in the United States.
To this day, the United States is the world leader in incarceration rates.
“Make no mistake, we are in a dip and we could be in a dip for a very, very long time,” he said. “The slave trade, for example, went on for hundreds of years. The only thing that will get us out is a crazy extended, determined effort. But it’s hard to know a moment in history if you’re in it because you’re just living your life.”
Murphy did think, however, King could have done more to point burgeoning activists in a direction by showcasing how social progress can be achieved.
“I know many people are not sure what to do at this point,” Murphy said. “Though, I hope the realities that were presented will be inspiring enough.”