In Los Angeles in 2014-2016, the Black Lives Matter Movement folks we’ve come to know and love seem hell-bent on disruption of municipal and county meetings as a strategy (although at best, disruption can only be a tactic, not a strategy). There have been numerous news stories and pictures of BLM activists being dragged out of (and frequently arrested in) Police Commission meetings and other gatherings. The essential test, however, for serious activism is not how much sound and fury you produce, but what actual change you cause or influence.
Truth be told, the most recent Police Commission ruling changing the police policy regarding use-of-deadly force, is a significant achievement in L.A., and BLMLA did have a big part in forcing that decision. That’s a victory worth announcing, even though L.A. County Attorney Jackie Lacey may or may not participate in enforcing the new rule. We remember that she refused to indict any police officers involved in shooting unarmed Black or Latino men (or in repeatedly pummeling an elderly Black woman), and she is running for re-election unopposed in June 2016. That is and should be a concern.
Meanwhile, in Cook County, Ill., where the incumbent State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez, had refused to indict anyone for more than a year, and only brought charges against the officer who emptied 16-shots into 17-year-old Black youth, Laquan McDonald, a few hours before being forced to release the video tape of the killing to the public, was decisively defeated for re-election by a former assistant attorney in her office, Kim Foxx. This was after extensive community work to get out the vote from a large assortment of activist groups, including BLM. And in Cleveland, the prosecutor who requested that the grand jury not indict the two policemen who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice two seconds after arriving on the scene of a dispatched call, was also defeated. Again, the BLM folk had worked to achieve that result.
In Baltimore, Md., DeRay McKesson, one of the youth leaders who gained fame working in the cauldron of Ferguson, Mo., just announced that he is running for the soon-to-be-vacant mayoral seat in Baltimore. Quizzed, and by some criticized, for seeking public office as a member of BLM, Mr. McKesson said he has an inside-outside strategy. In order to make substantial and sustainable change, he said, one must do more than merely protest what others are doing; one must get inside the system to change it. The former members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) would be proud of him for learning and implementing that lesson. Limiting one’s political activism to chucking bricks at the wall may feel good temporarily, but substantial change it will not produce.
We will keep checking on the evolution of this millennial-based political movement, both in California and around the world. It just may blossom into the world-beater we need to take the MLK torch further into the future. For now, we say, right on.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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