Gene Demby in Politico Magazine (here) touts the birth of a new civil rights movement. It’s for real, he says, this social justice thing that happened in 2014. He predicts it could be even more dramatic in 2015.
He doubts not that “…a loose but increasingly coordinated network of millennial activists” is networked up.
“…you’d be hard pressed to find a better megaphone than Twitter,” he says. They have a broad agenda and a serious generational rift going for them. Rallies and speeches are out along with male dominated charismatic leaders. Fannie Lou Hamer/Ella Baker style participatory democracy is in. Or so a professor of social movements informed him.
These Hamer/Baker inspired grassroots leaders actually made it to the White House. Inside, outside. It’s happening.
“As it goes with all histories, the catalyzing moment in this social-justice revolution is hard to pin down”, Demby proclaims.
Here’s the big fly in Mr. Demby’s code switch revolutionary ointment. No movement is likely to be built by polarizing off law enforcement. Not that there isn’t good cause from time to time. Brutal, inappropriate and even murderous behavior from time to time. Deaths of innocents even. But change is not going to be delivered by Twitter and, I suspect, no one would have nailed this faster than Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker.
In the real world, polarizing off law enforcement benefits three players: attention seekers (amateur or professionals like Sharpton), media (streaming compelling images that drive market share), and opportunist practitioners of backlash politics (in defense of law enforcement). Millenial sensibilities notwithstanding, these interests predominate. Perhaps more important, the vast majority of residents, whether poor or middle class, want law enforcement to successfully combat crime. This determinative reality undercuts “movement building” targeting officers of the law. Real, careful on the ground organizing - agitating, listening, learning, educating, challenging, negotiating, compromising and holding accountable - is what alters systemic relationships and delivers change. There is no alternative to this hard, risky, disciplined work.
Frank C. Pierson, Jr
Frank C. Pierson, Jr.
Frank Pierson retired after forty years of work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) as a professional organizer. He began his career in 1971 in Chicago, moved to Queens, New York City and migrated west to work in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. He resides with his wife, Mary Ellen Kazda, in Oracle, Arizona. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org