Today, many of us are still grappling with the Michael Brown verdict. We are wondering how once again we asked the question of whether black men are valuable in this country, and were once again met with ‘no’ as an answer. But even sadder than the devastation felt after the Michael Brown verdict, is the knowledge that it will happen again. It is not a matter of “if,” but instead “how long will it take.”
Maybe it doesn’t have to be this way. But if we continue to do what we’ve always done, we will continue to get what we’ve always gotten. As black people, we will never change the minds of everyone in the United States, but there are steps we have to take if we are ever going to continue to work toward change.
We have to stop acting like hashtag activism is actual activism.
Remember those girls everybody was trying to bring home a while back? What happened to them? Did they ever get rescued?
Nope. And no one cares anymore. People posted and tweeted and when the hashtag stopped trending so did the interest in what happened to the lives of those young women. Everyone fooled themselves into thinking that posting a Facebook status actually amounted to taking an action. The reality is that posting a tweet is about the equivalent of complaining loudly in a room full of your friends. Awareness means nothing without action. Everyone being aware of what happened to Trayvon Martin didn’t do anything to save Michael Brown.
We have to hold ourselves, and our successful black folks, accountable for taking care of one another.
We become so enraged when White America doesn’t care about us. Yet we throw our unwavering support behind Black people with the money, the power, and the platform to make a difference even when they say “I have nothing to offer but my presence, now buy my album so I can brag about investing all your hard-earned money on expensive goods sold by white people in Italy.” We can boycott black Friday, but if we aren’t boycotting the black people who aren’t investing in us, our money is still ending up in the same place.
We have to stop waiting for White America to care about us.
That great white hope we’re all waiting for isn’t coming. In the last 6 months I have had three well-educated, ”liberal” white people say to me that race is no longer a problem. In case you didn’t read that last sentence, that means that they saw Michael Brown in the news and were still able to come to the conclusion that race doesn’t matter in the United States. We keep thinking that someone will see a problem that isn’t actually a direct problem for them and then do something about it. It’s time to start investing in and building up our own communities, not so that they will then want to take care of us, but because we are all we have.
We have to stop thinking that being “well behaved” is the answer to changing anything.
Pulling up your pants, speaking articulately, getting a good education—we should all strive for these things, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that any of it makes a difference in society’s impression of black people as a whole, or does anything to change outcomes like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown. Barack Obama is the epitome of all that you are supposed to do as a black man: Harvard educated, hard-working, articulate, family man, and the President of the United States. I challenge you to find one article where there isn’t one White person in the comments calling him a savage or a gorilla. I’ll wait…
We have to keep working when there’s nothing trending in the news.
The marches that we see during the Civil Rights Movement aren’t just marches; they are the culmination of weeks, months, and years of work. They are the evidence of real sacrifice–time, money, sometimes lives–from those taking part. They did it when there weren’t likes to be had, when there was no applause, when no one saw what they were doing. For every leader we’ve heard of, there are thousands whose names we’ve never known working around the clock for change, and a change that they didn’t even expect to see in their lifetimes, but one that maybe their grandchildren could enjoy. We can’t sit around doing nothing for years at a time, and then expect change to come because we march after an incident in the news.
We have to actually know that we need to take action, and then take it.
But we probably won’t. Chances are, we will forget. Next week we’ll go back to breaking the internet with Kim Kardashian’s booty pics and be content to do that until it’s time to fill another young black boy’s name into the same headline. Forget, murder, riot, rinse, and repeat.
BMWK – what steps do we need to take in order to work towards change.