Black Community: This New Generation Of Black Social Activists. (aka… Black Lives Matter)




( Each generation of Black folk have produced a new chop of social activists. Social activists who push and pull the race closer to obtaining the goal of racial and social freedom, justice and equality.

Today’s  new generation of Black social activists have been quite effective in using social media to generate public attention to police criminality and brutality. These activists have been also effective in organizing and mobilizing people to protest and demonstrate.

However, their overall effectiveness in bringing about transformative systemic change regarding police criminality and brutality remains to be seen.

This new generation of Black social activists’ view of itself as being totally different from previous generations of Black social activists. It has been a common view that each new generation of Black social activists has felt about previous activists. However, in reality it has far more in common than in differences with previous generations of  activists then it oftentimes may realize.

As with other generations of activists, preceding generations were often viewed as not only ineffective in moving the race forward, but responsible for the negative conditions that Black people found themselves in. Oftentimes, they held the earlier generation in contempt and with hostility and disrespect.

When representatives of earlier generations of activists reached out to offer guidance and suggestions such offers were more often than not rebuffed and rejected.

The new generation of activists responded: “What could those old folks offer us in terms of advice and direction? It is because of them that our people are in the mess that they are. They are irreverent, out of touch and out of step with our world. They compromised their integrity and principles to fit in. We have no use for such uncle toms, handkerchief heads.”

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Ideological purity and rigid, arrogant and self righteous. It is a generational thing.

This new generation of Black social activists have been lumped together as the Black Lives Movement. The movement took root with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

It first appeared on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Black teen Trayvon Martin 17 months earlier in February 2012. The movement became nationally recognized for street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two Black men, Michael Brown—resulting in protests and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, a city near St. Louis—and Eric Garner in New York City.

Various local chapters of Black Lives Matter were established in various cities. However, they remained for the most part autonomous affiliates basically independent of each other.  For better or worse, there has not emerged a single consistent voice speaking for the movement.

From the outset, representatives of Black Lives Matter made it abundantly clear that they did not want or need advice or guidance from individuals or groups not of their generation. To that end, they keep the tradition alive of a newer generation of social activists not wanting advice or guidance from a previous generation of social activists.

It might have been useful if this new generation of activists would have been willing to have listened to lessons learned regarding organizational challenges and the importance of institutions and organizations. It may also have proved useful to learn of the strategies and dirty trick tactics used by government agencies, law enforcement and others against Black movements and organizations in the past.

At the same time, today’s new activists might have been able to learn something about negotiations, compromise and the historical role that protest and demonstration actually played in the past. They may have learned that it was not the marching, the sit-ins, demonstrations, rallies and other protest activities that forced America to change. It was the violence that was afflicted on the protestors.

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The US was forced to question how it looked to the world community and resigned itself to increasing civil and human rights for Blacks. It was also the threat and use of the economic boycott.

The new chop of social activists seems uninterested in such history. They have their own world view of history. It appears quite narrow, naive and parochial.

Example of such is that many of these new activists have been critical of the likes of former President Barack Obama. Some barely in their 20 years of age, not old enough to vote for the first Black president, nevertheless have criticized his legacy. In their view former President Obama, while in the White House was not progressive enough, did not do enough on behalf of criminal justice reform and Black economic advancement.

They are unaware or refuse to acknowledge President Obama was responsible for leading the country out of the Great Recession.  That he presided over this nation’s longest economic recovery.

That the recovery lasted over ten years and resulted in the historic lowest unemployment levels for Black since slavery. He also implemented federal policing policies designed to hold law enforcement more accountable for police abuse.

As one 20 year old Black college student stated “President Obama was a centrist, he was too willing to compromise. He was tone-deaf and out of touch with Black folks. He was not radical enough.”

Due to a lack of institutional and/or organizational formation instead of a transformative movement these present day activists may have limited themselves to a transactional moment. A movement centered on the next novelty hashtag.  At best, they will have been a mere footnote of history.

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The ultimate determination as to how effective this new generation will be in bringing Black folk closer to full freedom, justice and equality will not be how much attention they are able to garner on social media sites. It will not be the number of demonstrations and protests they generate or the amount of people who attend such protests, marches or demonstrations. Nor will it be the popularity of t-shirts sporting “Black Lives Matter.”

The effectiveness and worth of this new generation of Black social activists will be tied exclusively to their ability to organize and mobilize Blacks and others to lobby and enact laws at the local, state and federal levels of government. The enactment of laws that result in systemic change to policies and practices regarding law enforcement and criminal justice.

Their effectiveness will be judged by their ability to elect people into office at the local, state and federal levels of government, executive, legislative  and judicial whose commitment to justice and fairness mirrors that of the Black community.

Such effectiveness will include holding elected officials regardless of race, but in particular Black elected officials, accountable to the Black community. Anything less than that will have been a whole lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. Another empty slogan and unfulfilled hashtag.

Time and history will eventually judge the legacy of this new generation of Black social activists. If, as it is said, failure to learn from history ensures that one will repeat the mistakes of history, then we have a pretty good idea of how this new generation of Black social activists will be remembered.

Staff Writer; Al Alatunji

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