Is It Safe Now to Talk About How the Congressional Black Caucus’ State of the Union ‘Protest’ Was Just Kente Cloth Cosplay?

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I was on a flight from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh during the State of the Union, so I missed the entire thing. Actually, “missed,” in this context, is somewhat misleading. Because even if I had been able to watch it, I probably wouldn’t have. Because the absurd theater of what happens when President Donald Trump says things aloud isn’t just infuriating and depressing and harrowing and agitating and too surreal to be anything but a NyQuil-induced fever dream, it’s predictable.

He’s going to lie. He’s going to make promises he’ll never keep, and proclamations that have never been and will never be true. He’ll take credit for any and every good thing that might have happened while he happened to be in office, and he’ll deflect blame for anything that could be considered negative.


I was, however, interested in what the Congressional Black Caucus was planning to do. I’d heard and read rumbles about the possibility of a very public act of defiance toward our overtly racist president, and I was curious how that’d look. Especially after a year of very public political protests and Trump’s telling responses to them.

Would they collectively decide not to attend? Would they kneel at their seats in an obvious nod to Colin Kaepernick’s protest (and Trump’s reaction to it)? Would they walk out? Would they stand up and turn their backs to him while he was speaking, like several of the people in the room did when Omarosa spoke at a National Association of Black Journalists conference?

But, as I learned Wednesday morning, they chose a different route. And by “they chose a different route” I mean, “they decided to kill him with kente cloth cosplay.” Which could, I guess, be considered a protest. But it just looked like they decided to be really, really, really in character for a post-State of the Union spades tournament.

Now, I concede that I might be being too hard on them. There will never be a perfect protest that pleases every aggrieved party. And it’s much easier for me to comment on what they should have done than to be the person actually doing it. Also, I’m aware that some members, such as Maxine Waters, chose not to attend, so this wasn’t a total CBC effort. (And the Recy Taylor pins were a nice and necessary addition.)


But I just felt like there could (and should) have been ... more. Something more demonstrative. Something more disruptive. Something more offensive. Something more triggering to Trump. Something more ... something. Something that would have immediately communicated, “Oh, this is a protest” and not, “It’s cute how they coordinated outfits.”

That said, they did give me some Black Panther-premiere-outfit ideas, so I guess the protest was effective in a way.

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About the author

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB and a columnist for His debut memoir in essays, What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins), is available for preorder.