In his 1971 cult classic, ‘The Revolution will not be televised’, Gil Scott-Heron envisions the African-American uprising in a song that oozes power, rhythm and classic African-American cool. ‘You will not be able to stay home, brother,’ he sings in the call-to-arms refrain, ‘because the revolution will not be televised.’ Fifty years on, the revolution is being televised and it is being conducted almost entirely by progressive whites. People of colour may as well stay home and watch on tv.
It is a revolution that has been usurped by the progressive white left for whom it is an opportunity to showcase their virtue, their piety, their sanctimony and self-perceived superiority on a world stage. Motivated less by humility and contrition for the past than the status of their new secular sainthood, their activism patronises the African-Americans and only reaffirms white hegemony. The revolution has been inverted. The revolution has been appropriated.
If Gil Scott-Heron were alive today to see it, watching on tv or streaming it on an i-pad, he would have seen his revolution sapped. White faces trying to look angry. Clenched white fists trying to look intimidating. The power and humour he projects into his song, all absent. It’s a revolution he might not even have recognised. White people screaming into the faces of black police officers calling for their jobs to be defunded.
Long may his song be celebrated in African-American musical heritage despite the movement it advocates having been colonised by the progressive white left. Given that it glorifies burglary, endorses drug-taking and beer-drinking and perpetuates a negative African-American stereotype, the left should by rights be calling for the song’s cancellation, but maybe that would be the pot calling the kettle white, or the kettle calling the pot black, or some such.