The New Black Activist
Much of what we know about Black Activism is trapped in the 20th century. We have failed to advance our goals and strategies and as a result the movement has fallen further and further behind while those we have struggled with have advanced further and further away.
But it didn’t have to be this way. The election of Barack Obama proved that new technologies of information management, social media, and social science could and do work to advance the core messages of our movement and could have even afforded us the ability the ability to look beyond the goals of the 1960’s.
But it failed. We failed. We didn’t learn the lessons. So we suffered Ferguson and the pathetic responses to the tragedy. We have since suffered day after day of mass incarcerations, death by government, and a new Jim Crowe of redlining, and segregation…some self imposed. We have not embraced our biracial brothers and sister, and have not allowed the fact there are White allies who will lay down their lives for us. We have failed to move forward and we did it to ourselves.
So was it management? Yes it was management to a degree. Leadership from the 1960' and 1970’s refused to bring in younger proteges and thus we had a dearth of leaders. Couple that with blatant sexism. Leadership has refused to come to terms with the demographic shift in our population to a female majority base population. The refused to accept that Black men go to and graduate from college in very low numbers. Women have made up the gap but the sexist attitudes of women being in the home persist. This has forced women to more advanced movements like the #MeToo movements but at its edges not being given the face or leadership power.
And the one new movement, the Black Lives Matters movement is 1960’s retread. It is a splintered movement that has proved fragile. It too has not used the technology to improve data managment. It doesn’t have national leadership. It doesn’t have a unified core message, nor defined strategies on how to get there. The movement has become responsive rather than proactive in its strategy…what little strategy there is.
Gen X Rolled Over!
Part of the issue is my generation. Generation X. We followed our peers in simply not caring about what our parents went through and went about working and making money. We had in effect given up. The few of us who did go into activism and politics did it in a 1970’s infrastructure that was no long relevant and in many ways harmful to the advancement. We never demanded and were never given true leadership. Oh sure a few became branch leaders but we know that below us the organization just kept going.
So why should have been surprised when President Obama resorted to the old tactics and rhetoric while Congress played him like a fiddle? This was not his fault but the result of generation upon generation failing to create the systems, goals, leadership, and technologies to help the man win the national goals we do not have.
We missed our opening. But another will come and sooner than we think it will. There are younger legislators and politicians teed up to play major roles nationally. But to do this successfully and in a way that actually drives our goals we must get our act together.
No Longer Monolithic
There isn’t a monolithic Black community. Ironically we have created a similar break down of ethnic and political groupings that exist in Africa. Gone, (maybe never existed?) are the days of national organizations like the NAACP and Urban Leagues. The needs of the Black communities like any other community in America is diverse and regional. The needs in Minnesota will be very different than the needs in Georgia.
In one community new housing developments and an expansion of the college system may be all that is needed. Where in some areas the who infrastructure system needs to be completely rebuilt. The culture of each group will drive this.
And we have to realize that each community will have its own way of dealing with these issues. A middle class community with low crime, high employment, and upward mobility will use the existing governmental framework to maintain the advancements. Whereas a community literally miles away will have to use aggressive activism, social media, and leadership training to draw attention to the blight, high crime, high violence within their community.
We have to come to terms that instead of Black America goals, its Black America’s as in plural goals. And those goals can change across the various communities.
So what can national leadership do. First it can move aside. Much of the current movements leadership is too Southern and too old. Our new leadership needs to be much more female and much more reflective of the geographical diversity we have now.
Cooperation isn’t a DIRTY Word!
And we need to come to terms with the fact that many issues that matter to us matters to others as well. For example, reparations. While reparations is a political non starter, universal basic income is not. And ironically, UBI long term would benefit the community more than mere reparations. A policy like this allows us to achieve our goals in cooperation with others.
But we need fresh leadership. We need to embrace and enhance the use of technology. We all know that Silicon Valley hasn’t embraced diversity. We know this. Why not create Black owned tech companies which produce technology for Blacks who have not been marketed to. But even more critical utilize these companies to build the tools needed to do hyper local activism with the appropriate tools that our competition has.
I am speaking a new language of Black Activism. New language is needed. New strategy is called for. New leadership should be demanded. We can’t wait for the Trumpian revolution to end. Too much damage can be done in real time…too many lives lost. We must move into the 21st century and get hyper local. We need to embrace hyper local political and hyper ethnic alliances. We must look back at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement as a nice beginning. But it is not enough given the current environment. Less marching and more tech. Less speeches and more strategic alliances. Less door knocking and more apps. Less national and more hyper local ethnic/political organization. That is the way to a new brighter future.