A History Of Racism In The Term "Outside Agitators"

Racial segregation housing sign
William Anderson
June 19, 2020

Outside agitator” is a term born out of racism, and any time you hear it you need to be aware. 

The long history of this label dates back to segregationist efforts to quell Black protests. When we hear it come up today, it has the same purpose. This is what history tells us.

The term “outside agitators” was used by politicians and police targeting activists like Dr. King and the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights Movement. They wanted people to think outsiders were coming in just to cause trouble, but it’s actually even deeper than that.

By making people think that “outsiders” from other communities didn’t share solidarity with them, the KKK and the police were able to push organizers out. They labeled people fighting for racial justice as radicals, communists, and outsiders. This racist agenda was sinister.

Authorities still employ this term today in an effort to reduce support for protests against racial injustice. They hope to isolate us and make us think we shouldn’t link our struggles to form collective power. All of this leads to a big question.

Imprisoned Black journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal noted during the Ferguson uprising that the police “work there; they kill there; but they don’t live there.” Most officers police communities they aren’t from and don’t live in

So who are the real “outside agitators?