Since it declared independence, progress in the United States of America has been glacial, especially where human rights have been concerned. Not only is the Land of the Brave and the Home of the Free the only country at the moment without a truly progressive agenda, our infrastructure is crumbling and the middle class is putrefying.
These are facts. Currently, the U.S. is the only major industrial country in the world that does not provide its people with universal health care; the only major country that does not provide its workers with emergency medical leave for new parents; the only major country that doesn’t provide employment equity for its women; there’s no required sex education in this country, and we’re the only superpower that charges its citizens for seeking a college education.
That’s not just an estimation coming from a jaded college educated millennial: We are moving further and further away from a being a democratic nation; we’re quickly transmogrifying into an oligarchical society and people are angry. Just look at the lobbyists pocketing funding or parties racketeering for political power.
Noun: disaster; tragedy; Complete and utter ruin, desolation.
And then there’s the fuckery with Blue Lives Matter, the ultra-conservative anti-black crusades rallying behind the nation’s constabularies and All Lives Matter, the white liberal progressive narrative silencing the voices of people of color one blanket statement at a time. Basically, if you’re not a wealthy straight white male and looking through the eyes of an “other,” what’s happening in Ferguson, Detroit, Charleston, New York City, Oakland and Arlington seems to fuel comparisons (however, erroneous they sound) to the events of Hiroshima and Nagaski. If you’re black in America, its beginning to feel like we’re veterans enlisted in war, only the battle has been waged for centuries.
In an age of social media where we communicate through memes, hashtags and think pieces, frustration continues to build as black people and other “minorities” are forced into a proverbial chokehold to constantly recreate positive platforms in dialogue to incite change when, in fact, white privilege is the disease ebbing away at the spirit of not only America, but Rule Britannia as a whole.
Nevertheless, black people—especially black women—are being demonized for being outraged at the disproportionate brutality against persons of color and advocating police reform. That all came to a head on Saturday, Aug. 8, when former civil rights activist and internationalist presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders arrived in Seattle for two events.
Sanders, a U.S. senator whose first event was to address Social Security in front of a crowd that waited over an hour and a half, was barred from speaking at his own event. Marissa Janae Johnson and Mara Jacqeline Willaford, two protesters holding a banner that read “Smash Racism” jumped barricades and took the microphone. Boos, slurs and jeers followed from the angry mob of Sanders supporters. Think pieces followed and so-called allies began retaliating against Black Lives Matter as a movement.
This, mind you, occurred within the same weekend that Missouri law enforcement declared “Darren Wilson Day” to honor the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown and walked after a controversial verdict. This also occurred in the timeframe that the Staten Island Yankees co-opted Black Lives Matter into Blue Lives Matter on the slain teenager’s birthday, no less.
Photo Credit: Huffington Post
Since there is video, questions must be raised. Were these two young protesters wrong to disturb the peace and refuse Sanders the right to speak at his podium? Yes, of course. Were they wrong to speak out against Sanders considering his history? Even more so. Many would say that uneducated and misinformed people should not be allowed to be given a podium or power, especially in movements like #BlackLivesMatter or #OccupyWallStreet a years prior.
That said, Sanders kept his composure, even though very young, uneducated and misinformed demonstrators stood to speak against him. There are very few allies in politics speaking to the multi-billion dollar institutionalized prison system in U.S. and very few are granting people of color a presence in politics, especially those with their finger on the pulse of what’s going on. That said, were they wrong for addressing their concerns at Sanders, however aggressive? Oh, the countless flair-ups of respectability politics and multitude of horrors that followed.
Photo Credit: Race Forward, Twitter account
On Aug. 9 2015, in an immediate release addressed to its 69,000-plus fans on Facebook and 54,700-plus followers on Twitter, #BlackLivesMatter noted that it as a movement “does not endorse any presidential candidate” and that they “are not controlled by the same political machine that we are attempting to hold accountable.” But most importantly, the organization stated that it “embrace[s] a diversity of tactics” and “are a decentralized network aiming to build the leadership and power of black people.”
While this was an aggressive and uncouth act from a select few, one can’t argue with results, which were quite strategic. Bernie Sanders released a racial justice platform the following day, adding more African-American staff to his campaign and reaching out to black organizers to commence conversation.
Photo Credit: Inquisitr
Without a doubt, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is essential but like many rebel yells of its caliber (the first/second/third waves of the feminist movement, the gay rights movement, etc.), there needs to be a united front. Without truly vocal leaders at the forefront and a clear mission that extend beyond media interviews, online petitions, armchair activism and aimless protests, this could turn into just another trendy fad and we, the people, deserve better.
*Featured Image: Bernie Sanders; Photo credit: True Activist