The news that Michael Brown's killer was devastating, but to many, not shocking. We've seen this happen many times in the past few years. Sean Bell. Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo....and it just goes on and on. We all weren't surprised because we know that this result is a product of "the system," the way that things have been portrayed in the media, and other somewhat cliche terms that we've been reusing around these issues for the past couple of decades. But in more ways than one, we Black people living in the US are a definitely a part of this system that we attempt to blame, and we need unity, and real leadership to get out of this.
Issue A: We Lack Clear and Focused Strategy:
Once the verdict was out, the calls for the Black community to boycott Black Friday started, with demands that we make our voices heard and show America that Black lives matter. In my opinion, this is not a strategy that can affect any kind of change. Yes, we are making noise on social media sharing statuses about standing in solidarity together which honestly feels good but there's no real impact felt when we go out after the sales are over and spend even more on those items. This seems to be trying to mimic the Montgomery bus boycott but frankly there is no comparison. Even if there is a huge financial impact, it is targeting the wrong entities. Last I checked, Michael Kors and Macy's weren't presiding over this case, so I'm not sure why we're being asked to punish them and every other retailer in America. The reason that the boycott made sense and was successful was that the same people that we were giving our money to were telling us that we didn't matter, so we sent those same people a message that directly hurt their pockets. It also by the way was sustained for months, not just a day, and the terms of the boycott were very clear - we are not coming back until we are treated equally. This Black Friday boycott has no purpose but to "raise awareness" about what was already one of the biggest news stories on television for the last few months. How has that helped us? And why do we keep walking into that same wall? We need a true strategy about change moving forward, which leads me to the next issue.
Issue B: We are reactive, and not proactive
We always hear from our civil rights leaders in interviews and on the news AFTER tragedies and injustices, but what are they working on in between? It seems that they just wait for the next big story to hit, then talk about how unfair it is on air, then maybe create a hashtag and that's it. But what about addressing the root cause of many of these issues when they matter? For instance, let's talk about the fact that so many African American citizens, and citizens in general are not involved in local elections. Everyone has a lot to say NOW about the prosecutor in Ferguson, but he's been there for 21 years, dealing with issues in a very similar manner. But before this major news story, how many people knew? And now ask yourself, how much do you know about the prosecutor, district attorney, councilmen, mayor or even governor where you live? I bet the answer is nothing. On the flip side, how much do you know about Obama, Romney and McCain? Chances are, you know just about everything that they stand for. The majority of us have no idea about who is running in local offices, and about how much more they influence decisions over our lives than their national counterparts, so the majority just don't vote, and the few who do blindly vote for whoever is in our political party. (Ferguson's prosecutor is a Democrat by the way). Yes, Obama is president, and most of us celebrate that, but if you are wrongfully committed of a crime, he is not driving to your city to defend your case. So who is? And what are the NAACP and National Action Network doing to make sure that we're in the know about who we're electing to office? We can't wait until 3 days before the midterm elections date to send the generic "get out and vote" messages - what if they hadn't registered by the deadline? And what if they have no idea about who is running, what they stand for and their political history? Some forward thinking approaches could be to partner with organizations like MyTimeToVote and TurboVote to make sure that our people know where to register and by when. Why can't we create online forums to allow our people in each state to discuss the candidates, their history and our issues in those communities months in advance? Why do our civil rights leaders always wait until after the fact to just get on the news and complain? We really have to learn to do more than debate the root cause of issues after the fact. Let's actually attack them. And to do so, we also have to overcome the next issue.
Issue C: We don't put our money where our mouth is
Did you know that more money was raised for Darren Wilson's defense and support fees that was raised for Michael Brown's family after he was killed? While we were making noise *cough* oh, excuse me I mean "raising awareness" about Michael Brown's death on social media, Darren Wilson supporters were donating to ensure that he had the best legal team possible to defend him. This issue has plagued the Black community for years. We can't donate to causes like this, to churches or anything of that matter because we're saving for new 20" Brazilian hair bundles and Jordans. This is one of the parts that falls mostly on us non-civil rights leaders. We can't expect money to fall from the skies to make things happen. We have to put a little of the cash that we do have towards those causes that affect us. Each of our little bits adds up to a whole lot.
Everything about the outcome of this case upsets me, just like the rest of Black America. The fact that the majority of the news coverage of this decision was around the restless looters in Missouri and not the fairness of the case, the fact that there is yet another Black family who is missing a family member, and is now dealing with the fact that he wasn't even avenged. I am upset. But I also can't help but notice that our leaders during the civil rights movement did so much more, with so much less because they had true vision, and a clear understanding of what they wanted from each battle. We can do better. I'm so tired of these random tactics and campaigns with no clear agenda but to "make our voices heard." We need the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons to really strategize so that we can take a unified step towards PROACTIVE ACTION. Then the rest of us need to commit both in action and in cash(however little that may be). Otherwise, we frankly are just making noise on social media, and like every other hashtag, this too will eventually die out.