The civil rights movement was characterized as a continuous struggle for minorities; namely blacks in America against the establishment’s institutional rules and norms. The ruled versus the rulers. Despite everything; at the centre was the core belief of peaceful protest, non-violent in nature in the face of one of the greatest turbulent periods of race adversity.
The exceptional leadership led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and others denounced and condemned all forms of violence through their words and deeds; by refusing to follow the path of extremism by taking up arms towards their perceived oppressors.
It was unheard in the day, for those at the forefront, to brandish weapons of violence or to incite followers to inflict harm on the brunt of the lawful arm of government, whilst in the execution of their duties, even though at times in admonishing the letter of the law truth and justice was suppressed.
But, over time, in the face of perseverance, the movement reaped rewards although coming as time in an hour sand glass. Nevertheless change did come, whether it was the desegregation of the South; the dismantling of the apartheid educational system; the implementation of one-man, one vote or the passing of cornerstone legislation in the passage of the Civil Rights Act for blacks.
This was the beginning of the seeds that were planted, but the substantial fruits matured in less than 50 years, with the arrival of flowers of more achievement- blooming in the garden of progress for blacks- with the appointment to the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff; the position of Secretary of State, selection to a Supreme Court of Justice, the unprecedented election to the office of the President of the USA; two Attorney-General’s; male and female; Mayors, Governors, Senators, House of Representatives; Chief of Police, Warders, prosecutors, prominent CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies and even the rise of a black man to the coveted Forbes Billionaire list.
The gains have been incremental, but not negligible- all through non-violence. Those who therefore purport to look through the narrow lenses of history to state that blacks have not enjoyed advancement, including in the areas of sport and entertainment, do so, with a disservice to the tireless work of leaders of a by-gone era who had an agenda which contained more than one item.
Those who agitate, by hindering politicians on podiums, burning and looting cities; killing law enforcement officers are on the wrong side of the present and certainly what the past civil rights movement stood for: police brutality in its vilest form cannot be condoned; violence by retribution to police is undeniably unacceptable and reprehensible.
The point is this: The new civil rights movement cannot be leaderless and only about the narrow important issue of police brutality. It has to be something wider covering jobs and income inequality; criminal justice reform; addressing the current needs of the black and minority communities; it has to be about institutional opportunity to oversee reformation and the rooting out of police brutality by governing from a place of justice and not perpetuating injustice.
Sadly, Black Lives Matter loss its way psychologically when it called itself ‘Black’. Movements to bring about change are not defined by colour. Movements are heralded by its objectives and standards it upholds. Dr. King did not represent only blacks; it was deeper than that- he represented what was right in the face of wrongs; acted justly when he was beaten and jailed unjustly. His leadership exemplified restraint not provocation, accomplishment not ad hoc activity.
The message about police brutality should never go away nor the memory of the dead whether police or civilians but heard and remembered through rational voices of leaders amplifying the sound of calm in the midst of chaos. Assimilating the issues to a level of asking the simple questions “Who, What, Why, When and Where?”.
Black Lives Matter was a movement which had the potential in transforming the debate of race in America into a proper ‘Millennia Civil Rights Movement 2.0’; it has however squandered its opportunity by not adequately rejecting violence and embracing the mantra of non-violent protest; blurring the lines of its grass-roots communications to its followers vis-à-vis identifying its leaders and goals in an effective way.
In contrast Black Lives Matter may now find itself on the brink of being tainted as a radical organization; lacking clarity and integrity to sit as the legitimate representative at the table of mediation to end police brutality across USA. Indeed it would be a tall order to ask this movement to negotiate from a position of non-violence when one or two of its “members” have openly identified themselves as such and horribly executed police officers.
Ironically, BLM run the risk of instead being the victim, now appears to be seen as the front runner for the title of “aggressor” however unintended; by embracing the misguided culture of mass hysteria of the town crier ambition to stone to death the guilty rather than seeking to adopt the tenets of “he who is without sin let them cast the first stone”.