There is no doubt that today’s activist scene closely resembles the highly volatile and politicized 1960’s of yesteryear when a wide array of social protest groups jockeyed among themselves for a fleeting moment in the national spotlight.
The American historical record is replete with fantastic stories of insurgent groups such as Students for a Democratic Society, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the Brown Berets, the Weathermen, and the Black Liberation Army fighting against the existing establishment with every fiber of their being. If it can be said that the majority of contemporary activists have been inspired by this period, it also appears safe to say that they have committed a grievous era by failing to extend their study beyond this period of frenetic activism.
The failure of contemporary activists to study beyond the march is extremely important because it is in that failure to extend their inquiry beyond public protests in American streets that leads them into a fit of confusion regarding what occurs after protesters have garnered “the establishments attention.”
Contemporary activists behave as if securing the attention of their so-called oppressors is the ultimate goal of activism, they could not be more incorrect if they tried. For example, had they extended their investigation of “The Vanguard” of the Black Power Era, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, they would have discovered that even the Panthers made a definitive move to capture the city of Oakland via electoral politics. Put simply, the Panthers called their entire membership base to Oakland in an attempt to flood the voting roles and capture this working-class city’s municipal government.
Although the Panthers ultimately failed in their attempt to Seize the Time and take control of Oakland’s city government, their attempt should serve as an obvious example of one of the two paths available to activist groups such as Black Lives Matter; the other path is to continue to have endless public protests and marches that eventually become little more than a nuisance to on-lookers.
The case of DeRay Mckesson displays that this lesson has not been ignored by all contemporary activists.
In a relatively brief period of time, the thirty-year-old McKesson, one of the most high-profile members of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has emerged as an example of what should be the natural progression of today’s activist leaders. Mckesson has abandoned the common trap of participating in seemingly endless irrational public protests against “the system” in favor of a more productive plan of seizing a political office and causing change from within.
McKesson recently spent the past three months running for Baltimore, Maryland’s, Mayoral position. Unfortunately for McKesson, his bid fell far short of its intended goal when he finished in sixth place out of a crowded field of twelve Democratic Party hopefuls.
In a city such as Baltimore, it is inexplicable that a notable ‘grassroots activist’ such as Mckesson with notoriety gained via his association with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement would secure only two-percent of the vote; a tally that accounts for slightly more than 3,000.
So what does it mean when a leader such as Mckesson, who is not only offering a logical path to improving the Black community, but also emanating from the “it” organization of the time fails so miserably at securing an elected position? Does it mean that today’s so-called activists are addicted to the struggle and have no desire to relinquish the ‘high’ that they get from protesting against the so-called ruling class, even if such an action meant liberating their people? Are they content to, in the words of President Barack Hussein Obama, have their only modes of activism be simultaneously yelling at their opponents while refusing to engage the political process in an effective manner?
One would be hard pressed to disagree with McKesson’s observation regarding the next step that contemporary activists need to take in their battle for racial equality, particularly when such struggles are occurring in predominantly African-American urban enclaves.
According to Mckesson, “We also need to be the people who are on the boards and commissions … in actual power. The status quo that we are resisting is super organized on the inside, and an outside-only strategy, I think, is not a strategy to win. I think it’s a strategy to fight forever and ever…Our goal is not to fight forever and ever, and I do worry that, in the movement space, that there are people more addicted to fighting than winning.”
The shocking lack of electoral support by extremely vocal ‘Black Lives Matter’ activists for Mckesson’s Mayoral bid highlights a particularly pernicious evil within today’s movement. That being, the unwillingness or even outright resistance of many so-called Black leaders and activists to adopt programs and philosophies that are aimed at securing tangible gains in favor of outlandish “revolutionary” goals such as the overthrow of the U.S. Government, subduing the U.S. Military, and starting a new country for Black people; goals that are so ridiculous and outlandish that they can cannot be taken seriously.
It will most certainly not be long before this nation totally tunes out the boisterous protests and learns to side-step the innumerable disruptions to society that protest groups have used as their main strategy. If contemporary activists continue to fail to engage the existing system in a manner beyond screaming and yelling at what amounts to sound-proof legislative offices, we will all be left with little choice other than to say that contemporary activists are doing little more than “talking loud and saying nothing.”
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.