Black as the Color of Protest

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Black has become the color of protest in Hong Kong, as an everyday color takes on a symbol of opposition as protests continue on.

Citizens feel as though democracy is being threatened, as the Chinese government passed an extradition bill in April, allowing for criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be handed over to the jurisdiction of mainland China for conviction. Hong Kong is intended to be an autonomous, or self-ruling, region with respect to mainland China, making this bill an infringement on their rights.

Demands for democratic reform have pushed the Chinese government to the brink as they attempt to contain what they see to be as “riots,” for fear that if things take a violent turn they may see condemnation from Western countries.

As protests in Hong Kong intensify, the Chinese government is going to even more extreme lengths to snuff protesters’ efforts.

Imports of black clothing have been banned from the mainland of the Republic of China to Hong Kong, with the hope of depriving protestors of their uniform. This has recently followed the ban of face masks within the county as the government attempts to get a handle on the riot situation and regain control of the once autonomous city.

Protestors have become the target of the ban, with the idea in mind that banning garments — such as black t-shirts, headbands and goggles — will deny protesters access to their anti-government uniform. The clothing ban was first issued this past July but has now become more all-encompassing, as there is no discrimination between black clothing one might wear to the gym and black clothing one may wear in the act of protest.

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Throughout history, black clothing has been involved in protests. Dr. Erin Vearncombe, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, noted that “across historical and geographical contexts, people have considered black clothing as ‘looking’ malevolent, guilty, dishonest, violent,” when speaking to the New York Times about the subject. The Black Panthers adopted the look during the Civil Rights riots as a symbol of defiance. Time’s Up protestors wore black red-carpet gowns at the Golden Globes as a sign of solidarity against sexual harassment. The color black almost embodies this idea of defiance, especially when used in a political manner.

So where will this leave the protestors? At the end of the day, it is not color that defines social protesting — it’s the people that gather together to stand united together against a common front. The visual expression only plays a small role within the bigger picture.


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