I tuned into the President’s Town Hall on Thursday night. Airing on ABC News, it featured President Barack Obama and many people negatively affected by the tragedies that continue to plague America. For an hour, they expressed concerns from their points of view. That resulted in an hour of wasted time.
Here’s why it was unproductive:
President Obama (or any President for that matter) cannot lead a movement of this magnitude. The Town Hall felt more ceremonial than beneficial due to the political atmosphere in the room. Including the President, everyone that spoke seemed to be on eggshells. The hour-long special was devoid of the brutal honesty required to initiate progress.
Is the President to blame?
Not at all. He did an outstanding job remaining composed, moderating the town hall with an open ear and mind. He listened to all of the points made, even a few egregious ones, and maintained objective dialogue. Regardless, that’s not the manner of dialogue this country needs right now. The conversation needs to start off with an acknowledgement of the issue at hand: Black lives do matter, but they are not being treated as such, warranting the infuriation displayed by citizens across America.
How can we make a change?
First, we need organization. (When I say we, I mean all people who believe in justice and equality as the cornerstone of American values.) Right now, nothing is being accomplished because there is no real unity. #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) currently consists of countless “rogue missions” running simultaneously. There are innumerable protests in various cities at different times with no structure. A large portion of America wants to see justice, but until we band together as a whole, our efforts will be fruitless.
If you look at any successful movement in American history, you will see organization and mobilization. These are the very threads that our nation was weaved with. The Boston Tea Party, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and Civil Rights Movement achieved success with people who battled in harmony.
Sounds nice, but how does that work?
We need a leader. The change we seek in America must come from an organized mass, and having a leader to guide us is paramount. That way, there’s no confusion about whether BLM is a hate group, or violent, or somehow racist. Having an individual spokesperson denouncing counterproductive events like the Dallas shooting will deter media from associating them with BLM. The presence of a leader shows unity, provides organization, and is vital in the pursuit of change.
What qualities should this leader have?
As recently as Thursday night, we’ve seen what doesn’t work. The leader of BLM cannot be a government official. There are many people who contend that there is no racial bias pertaining to law enforcement. Obviously those people need to be called out, but a politician like Mr. Obama isn’t able to do that candidly. That’s where our leader comes in.
Along with being fearlessly outspoken, this leader must have a clean record. We’ve seen unarmed victims like Trayvon Martin become demonized by the news in the past. Imagine what would happen if someone who had skeletons in their closet was to become the face of BLM. The movement and its participants would lose all of their credibility and we’d fail to see the change we seek.
Wouldn’t there be too many wannabe leaders?
Being at the head of BLM is extremely dangerous. Leaders of all campaigns for major change experience lack of privacy, public slander, and even death threats. Civil Rights proponents like Huey Newton, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X were all assassinated while being leaders. The fact of the matter is that the roots of hate are so entrenched in the American DNA that it has not been eradicated. 240 years ago “All men are created equal” was written, although today’s suggestions that African Americans possess an inherent propensity towards crime say otherwise. Racism is still present in America, and it will rear its ugly head towards anyone who calls it what it is. So no, the job of leading BLM is one that demands a willingness to risk his/her life for the cause. That is a very unpopular position.
Is it dangerous for anyone to get involved with activism?
Yes. This country has a history of “witch hunting” when it comes to these issues. From the actual witch hunts in Salem to the McCarthyism and Red Scare of the 1950s, it can be dangerous to represent a cause. I’ve already seen reports of police arresting people based on their Twitter posts. Frankly, we face an uphill battle. But in the end, it will be worth it. If it means eradicating the fear that I could be executed during a traffic stop, then I will do whatever it takes. I know so many people who are scared out of their mind to raise children in America’s hostile climate. Racial bias is so embedded in it that people now have built-in responses that defy logical reasoning. “Let’s wait for the facts” is a common rebuttal I hear on TV while watching a cold blooded murder play out on video.
My final thoughts:
Amidst the Sterling and Castile murders and the Dallas shootings, I felt gloomy. My head and heart were heavy because it seemed as if anything I said or did would be hopeless. It was then that I remembered what those who came before me sacrificed. With that being said, I will not give up. I will make sure my voice is heard. I refuse to be satisfied with a system that has proven that the only black life that matters to it is that of Harambe the Gorilla.
It doesn’t matter to me whether Jesse Williams or Jesse Jackson takes the helm and leads us, but someone needs to.