Media Doesn’t Like McKesson Called ‘Professional Protestor’

Parachuting activist blames racism for title.

This week, MSNBC dubbed him a “policing reform organizer.” Sean Hannity titled him a “professional protestor.” Kevin Jackson called him a “race pimp.” We’re talking about DeRay McKesson – a black activist who has taken Twitter by storm, railing against the racism he believes plagues American police forces.

But he has not only been active on social media. McKesson was also present at the scene in Ferguson, Baltimore, and most recently McKinney. On Tuesday, Hannity hosted him on Fox News and asked whether protesting was his “profession now.” And that’s where McKesson – and later Mediaite, Salon and Raw Story – got defensive.

“You know, I'm somebody who’s focused on justice.” McKesson replied. “Is this a question that you are asking me because I'm, because I’m a person of color – would you ask, uh, white people this too?”

Responding that his question had nothing to do with race, Hannity continued asking if McKesson had been “a part of any of the rioting” or “looting.”   

After McKesson said that he hadn’t seen any rioting, Hannity showed a clip. “I have the video … A lot of minority store owners lost their, their entire life possessions.” McKesson then admitted that “there has been property damage in some cities. And again, I've not participated in that.”

On Wednesday, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes took his turn interviewing McKesson, who called McKinney a “place that is refusing to acknowledge the injustice that exists around racism.”

Hayes then told McKesson about the people who live there “both black and white … who say actually, you know, race relations here are good, we get along well … and you – Deray – are an outside agitator who’s coming in here to stir things up and find problems where there are none.”

McKesson responded: “Yeah, you know, I, I'm there because injustice is there, right, just like King said … And, we, we, we can’t continue to believe that racism only exists at the extremes, with the N word and lynching.”

After playing the clip from Fox News highlighting the exchange above, Hayes seemed unable to grasp Hannity’s issue with McKesson’s type of protesting. Hayes then told McKesson that he was “sorta fascinated by this idea … that there’s something insidious about a ‘professional protester.’” “What exactly do you understand is the critique there?” he asked McKesson.

The activist responded: “You know, I think that people are, like, afraid when black people organize … The reality is that people organize as a part of their profession all across the country, across a host of issues, but when black people organize, it becomes this insidious thing to some people. And that's the only thing that I can offer up to make sense of that critique coming.”

Although McKesson denies having seen looting or rioting, video footage proves that it happened. Yet, somehow, both he and Hayes seem to miss the point that there is a definite difference between peaceful organization and violent protest, no matter the race of those involved. There is a difference between activating people over definite injustice and parachuting in to a situation to incite or exacerbate tensions. Do that repeatedly and, whether you’re a black activist or a middle class white slack-tivist looking for the next G-8 or IMF meeting, you can fairly be called a professional protestor.

On the day of his MSNBC interview, McKesson received the tweet “@deray is no MLK. Let's just get that real clear.” The Huffington Post didn’t like that. However, McKesson obviously admires King, so hopefully he’ll heed his words in the future: “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”