There’s a saying “there’s nothing new under the sun”, yet, in terms of justice, we think the game has changed, or better yet, we believe the lies: You can make a difference on Facebook, IG, Twitter, or from any social outlet. The Black American story is rich in oppression, conflict, and overcoming all obstacles, but lately it feels as if our generation is quickly believing that using words, pictures and engaging in heated banter is enough to change the hearts and minds of those who have been entrusted to uphold what was constitutionally entitled to us. Equality.
Two weeks ago, I was volunteering with a group of kids who studied the civil rights movement in a summer enrichment program. One particular volunteer was asking a student about her project on the Montgomery bus boycott. He asked her a simple question, “Why did the Montgomery bus boycott work?” -The student stood frozen, petrified. He continued to ask her leading questions, such as, “What were the largest number of users of the bus system”, “What happened when all the Blacks stopped riding the bus”‘ The young girl she was overwhelmed, and couldn’t quite articulate that the boycott hit the bus system where it mattered most, their pocket books, and ultimately decimated the bus system to almost complete ruin. Their actions were strategic, pointed, and involved a number of sacrifices. But when I think of that little girl, I think what is up with our current generation. Do we really understand the civil rights movement and why it worked? I would argue that we don’t.
Yet, I can’t seem to blame our generation, do we really know and understand what it takes to bring justice for our people, or maybe we’ve been lied to about what are currently doing. “This new generation is so innovative”, we give “passionately to sporadic causes” and we have a “new way of doing things” implying that we get what we’re doing. Yes, it’s true, we’ve had technology at our fingertips at a very young age and we do care differently, and maybe with a broader perspective which is a good thing. And we have more access to information than any generation before us, yet, do we have the capacity to be the change agents, are we really truly armed to make a difference. Can We?
On August 9, The Wall Street reported that “The Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday said protesters would travel to a planned Staten Island rally later this month in caravans of cars and buses, rather than marching over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, to protest the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner. Political opposition had been mounting to Mr. Sharpton’s original plan to conduct a march over the bridge, which critics said would cause traffic jams and obstruct Staten Island’s artery to the rest of the city.”
The story further goes on to discuss how the Mayor of New York City and the New York Governor expressed concerns about safety directly to Mr. Sharpton. But what about the safety of individuals who are being murdered by Police, such as, Eric Garner. And the bigger question is, why is Al Sharpton still speaking for us. The whole purpose of a protest, is to inspire action. I’ve never been so appalled at a “concerted” effort to dim light on a serious social issue.
But when I scan my timeline, no one is talking about how Al Sharpton is bowing down to political pressure, or how the march on foot should continue. I see more posts from black yuppies, about “I am Eric Garner “, or if I was to die, what picture would the media use? Who cares! Hey, that may be a real possibility if we don’t stand up and do something about it. But the reality is we are too comfortable.
Also trending, “did social media help with the Renisha McBride case?” She was shot through a locked door; I’m not sure what part social media had to play, other than captain obvious. The scary part is that we’ve fooled ourselves to believe that it did, as oppose to realizing the stark differences in her case from the many others that have occurred out in the open with unarmed Black Americans.
So do we stop hoodie photos or catchy awareness campaigns, no, but we do need to do something more.
We are a generation of the Huxtables, more Black Americans are educated and middle class, but the socio-economic gaps between lower income and middle/upper class is widening exponentially. And we can’t expect our famous stars to be the Harry Belfonte and Sidney Poitier (who bank rolled a number of civil rights efforts) of our time. Will we not speak and act for each other?
I recently watched a documentary where Charlie Evers, Medgar Evers’ brother, said that it wasn’t till the young white and Jewish children from the North that came down to the south and they started dying and getting hosed down and attacked by dogs on TV did it feel as though change really began to happen in Mississippi. Maybe it’s time for the middle class and uppity negroes to get a little dirty for a change.