Dear #Ferguson, #EricGarner Protesters: Don't Lose Focus
The movement against police brutality in this country is at a critical moment. The moment when it will prove out to either be an outpouring of grief and rage, or the spark that set of real change in America. Real change from the bottom up, as opposed to change that was negotiated in a boardroom on K Street.
This week, not next or the one after, but right now is critical.
You've probably already seen the professional activists amongst you begin recruiting for other causes. That's fine. That's what they do, but you're also probably seeing some of them try to make the protest about their core issues. Almost all of them are noble causes, but this is how populist uprisings on the Left die in America: they fucking lose their focus because the world is a horrible place and there are so many wrongs to right.
Don't fucking fall for this. It's a trap. A well-intentioned self-inflicted mortal wound.
I remember the capstone moments of the 2003 Anti-War protests. Tens of thousands of us in the streets, marching in San Francisco. We made it all the way to City Hall to the rally: where the organizers promptly talked about Palestine for an hour. We were there to keep us from going into Iraq and the folks at A.S.W.E.R. thought that would be a good time to recruit us into their cause. They saw an audience and tried to seize the mic.
Yes, these events are connected. Yes, Justice is a universal concern. But you don't teach the network--that almost invisible field that ties us all together--by hijacking a conversation. That's the same sin as "mansplaining"(see note below) or butting in with #AllLivesMatter. Hearts may be in more or less the right place but folks who do that should think about investing in a glass bellybutton because their heads aren't.
So I implore the organizers who are using the Garner protests as a chance to sell Occupy ethos: don't make that the center ring. It confuses the hell out of folks who came for one cause only to find out the rally is really for another. Those folks don't come back, and don't think you can create change without them. It's more than fine to have some sideshow action, to build up the coalition, but right now you're there to serve this cause. To hopefully win a victory against the forces of institutionalized racism and the militarization of our police forces.
A victory, just one victory, can change the tide of the overall struggle for Justice. Don't miss the mark by trying to take on the whole System at once: we've seen how that story ends over and over again.
(Note: I really, really hate the term "mansplaining." I think it does way less good than it does harm, because it's designed to shut down dialogue and The Network requires dialogue, but that's for another day.)