These photos were taken at Sunday’s silent march in Manhattan protesting the NYPD’s bias in conducting racially-biased searches.
The man’s suit and the quote as a historical reference seem to anchor this gentleman in the civil rights movement, an effect he quite likely had in mind. (His sign reads: “Not by the color of my skin but by the content of my character.”)
As strong as his dignity in relation to the cop, however, what it also seems to reference is the need for African Americans to have to justify their rights through the overt demonstration of character or class — in contrast to, say, the white union guy marching down the street in a t-shirt and shorts. The two men may be equally politically inspired but the white guy would be more free of the “identity investment” to have to stare the cop down.
Also notice the surveillance sign upper left. Talking rights versus power, the message is: feel free to assert your identity but understand “the man” governs the space.
This is less a protest sign than a personal note, something you wouldn’t see in a newswire photo so much as those more immediate communications we saw in the “We are the 99%” Tumblr blog. Of course, the fact the cop — the addressee — has passed this man by is the real irony.
In contrast to the man with the personal sign, the Middle East analogy is just asking for attention (and getting it!).
Let’s just say, faith isn’t easy.
PHOTOGRAPHS by Nina Berman/NOOR