By: Lajaywon Lapade, Contributor
The civil rights movement in the U.S. needs change. Despite the various forms of protests the civil rights movement has used in the last couple of decades, very little political progress has been achieved. Black Lives Matter seems disorganized and scattered. The NAACP exists seemingly only for appearances and for the sake of being listed as a “black civil rights organization” when in reality it has become a collection of political lobbyists that admittedly speak out against injustice but rarely take action.
The rest of the American social justice movement reflects their poor leadership through scattered protests and the occasional radicals who vandalize property, and of course, a massive bloc of keyboard warriors, digital activists, and left wing aligned YouTubers.
To be clear I am not demeaning these groups entirely; however, a grand majority either are not doing enough or are not going to efforts of making change the right way.
For the last decade, there have been protests across the country such as the ones in NY after the election or the protest in Charleston South Carolina that turned violent. These protests becoming violent is a massive roadblock to their success. A primary example is Portland Oregon; There in the months following the election of Donald Trump, at least 6 protests and rallies occurred in the urban area alone. In the city as a whole, at least 30 rallies and protests used the city as a platform, ultimately resulting in $1 million in property damage, over 150 arrests, and no positive result nationwide, politically, or otherwise.
Issues of the current approach
Firstly, the many protests that characterize the movement are merely a response to an event rather than for a systematic problem that is the root cause of the event or issue, meaning that stopping that in that particular area will only prolong it for another time and place. For example, if police brutality and violence is being protested such as in the Philandro Castille case or the Micheal Brown Incident. Protesting might get policeman on leave or even fired(Conviction is out of the question) but in the end, either would have temporary results. Whereas changing police policy instead of merely protesting would have long lasting, possibly permanent results.
Secondly, many of these protests become violent and destructive, as indicated above, which can very often tarnish the legitimacy of the movement. Finally, a lot of these protests (marches, rallies ETC) carry no weight simply because most of the time the people participating are not significantly connected to any political party. While some might think the Democratic Party is the “party of the people,” it simply does not have the interests of “the people“ at heart a lot of the time.
Bill Clinton, a historically renowned Democrat, happened to love throwing people in jail. He instituted the famous “three strikes rule” meaning after 3 offenses someone could be imprisoned for life (regardless of the crime). He also expanded capital punishment to at least 50 more offenses. His wife Hillary Clinton was one of the key proponents of the term “super predator”, a word coined to dehumanize and demonize African Americans. She once said that she has a “public opinion and a private opinion.”
Therefore, two important things need to occur in order legitimize a revolution that is seen as a group of vandals or moderates who talk in circles. The first is reform and unification, and reform of various groups dedicated to reform i.e. Black Lives Matter. The main issue is that the face of the movement has become vandals and looters, not freedom fighters. When one looks for events on the page over and over, they see nothing for months. As an activist movement, it needs to be active. It needs to be unified. It needs to be organized. The NAACP is, for intents and purposes a political organization without political power. BLM and the NAACP, as well as civil rights groups based all over the country working together for events as well as holding radicals accountable separate from the movement, would be just what movement needs.
What the American civil rights movement lacks right now is political power. Petitions are nice and all, but as mentioned before the permanent change is necessary. This issue is mainly due to the separation between the supposed “people’s party” that currently lacks a clear direction and message because of excessive pursuit of moderation. A possible fix is establishing a bridge with the Democratic Party, which would mean cooperating to work for a unified force between it and the people and could also mean breaking its corporate ties. It also would mean a total change of party dynamic which would not only be unprecedented but is also highly unlikely.
A second possible answer to the lack of political power behind the civil rights movements is the creation of a “people’s” political party. This solution would be difficult but perhaps would be more permanent. I’m aware of what comes to mind and to answer your question: no, I am not a communist.
In the face of a country so polarized, where two political parties are so concerned with the failure of the other that its citizens have suffered, where police killings and brutality have run amok without federal or even state intervention and where in a so called “democracy” citizens lack meaningful control of any policies put into place, these measures are not only crucial for meaningful change of malfunctioning system of reform, but also for change in a nation regressing into political chaos.
Image Credits: By Kiteinthewind – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60575613