It’s been said that protesters of this generation lack guidance, that we need a main leader, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many elders, on the outside looking in, are attempting to share their views of how this should work and what we should do. The thoughts of many “millennial protesters,” however, is that if it had been done this oh-so-correct way in the past, there would be no reason to protest now.
The fact remains while things have improved and the existence of black humanity is affirmed by many, we have obviously not moved to the place where all Americans are free and treated equally.
“For liberty and justice for all,” so says the Pledge of Allegiance. Yet the struggle, for African Americans in particular, to gain the same rights easily given to Caucasian allies is real. Between programs like stop-and-frisk and racial profiling, and theories like “broken windows policing,” people of color are purposely sought after for the wrongs they MIGHT do.
Since our lives aren’t valued by enough of the majority of those holding the power, this causes resistance to granting us our civil rights. There is a clear resistance to see someone for the content of their character and not just the color of their skin when it comes to interactions involving those of power (mainly police and politicians) and people of color.
A question was posed at a recent panel discussion. This panel was comprised of seven members, three female and four male, young and old, ranging from educators to pastors to activists to community organizers. The question: where does resistance to racial equality come from?
It comes from not opening your eyes. If you can walk past something, a blatant injustice perhaps, and know it’s wrong and know that you have the power to at least speak against it, yet you keep going, that’s a problem. Just as in the film “Selma,” having Caucasian allies step in the marching line with those seeking justice – even today – will help their fellow comrades realize there is something going on that deserves our attention. No more ignoring the obvious nor sticking to one’s own selfish agenda.
The terms “white privilege” and “white supremacy” are thrown around a lot lately and both play a role in the reason for the movement and the cause of resistance. A Caucasian pastor on the panel stated that when looking through the lens of white privilege, everything is geared for the average white man to not run into bumps. He said that the world around him is ordered so that white men are in control. It’s a systematic oppression. Caucasians are often worried about what they are going to have to give up for people of color to have what’s needed to be equal.
I watched much of “Selma” with tears in my eyes because it felt all too real. Of course, I’ve read the stories of my ancestors or seen them portrayed in documentaries and movies. But through the current Black Lives Matter movement, activists have STILL been calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism.
And as an activist and protestor in Ferguson, I’ve heartbreakingly watched police abuse their power over peaceful protestors. I’ve disappointingly watched police turn a blind eye to harassment and in the same breath unfairly detain one who was attempting to protect another, the one police ignored. I’ve confusingly watched local politicians and police chiefs skip right past Ferguson and go straight to Ivy League colleges across the country to give speeches and hold discussions.
The reform starts at home. The community needs positive police interaction and involvement to be a priority. The community wants the politicians and police chiefs to meet with them and hear their concerns, then adapt the ones they can.
The movement does not lack guidance. We lack an available ear willing to listen, then act. We lack politicians who are willing to sign the papers to enact our demands. We can all win but it will take a collective effort. It will mean everyone must wake up.
This is not an anti-police movement. It’s a pro-accountability one. And as in the days of activism in Selma in the 1960s, the protests of this current generation shall continue indefinitely.