Just to be clear, freedom and liberty require responsibility and diligence, otherwise it is indistinguishable from anarchy and insolence.
Though both the 5th and the 14th amendments advocate that “life, liberty and property” are human rights in this country, neither is guaranteed without constant and significant struggle. Thus, George Floyd’s life was taken away without his consent or permission by agents of the state. The U.S. has been overrun the past nine days as thousands of those both protesting his death and imposing significant damage on private property have taken to the streets primarily to express their disapproval. It is certain that this particular lesson in civics will eventually peter out, but it is not as clear that any significant lessons will have been learned. Thus, we may repeat either this same, or a comparable version, of this scenario soon.
The major problem here is that this is mass action without an identifiable set of political goals. It is mass umbrage. Fine, then what? The police will go back to continuing to do what they do, and even more Black folk will be killed by “official actions of the constabulary.” The people want all four cops involved in Floyd’s death arrested and charged? Okay.
Former Congressmember Keith Ellison, now Attorney General of Minnesota, will almost certainly, after reviewing all the video and other evidence associated with Floyd’s death, do just that. All four former cops will most likely be charged and arrested before this week is out. But certainly, that can’t be the end game for all this protest, fire and brimstone of the previous nine days, can it? Even in that vein, the aim is for conviction and sentencing, not just arrest, and that conclusion is far from certain. I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
And again, what permanent reform is being sought to calm the waters? Is it a drastic reform in criminal justice procedures in this country? Is it more equal treatment for Black folk in the criminal justice system of this country? Or is it making Black folk and other disrespected Americans feel more included in American culture and politics?
If any or all of them is accurate, then the mass demonstrations will only get attention for such causes, not solutions. Relieving property owners of immediate threats to their pocketbooks and allowing insurance companies and other institutions to salvage broken buildings—restoring order—will relieve the pressure to do anything else. Business as usual will revive and resume.
There must be a broader political strategy laid on the table immediately, or nothing much will change. The masses must organize themselves to vote out those political leaders who have proved disappointing in the past, and to vote in a new crop of hopefuls willing to tackle the hard stuff. This includes the U.S. Senate, where if the Democrats don’t put in the required effort to change the numbers there to a Democratic majority, while maintaining the current numbers in the House, getting rid of number 45, even if a success, won’t accomplish much more than window dressing and better statesmanship.
The lesson being advocated here is for serious-minded Black thinkers to create a real political strategy. We don’t just need a unifying Black agenda, we need a generally agreed upon set of strategies to accomplish that agenda.
Remember Ferguson? There, Black folk were in the population majority for over 10 years before the M. Brown shoot down. The Black political leaders there did not manage to get that Black population to seize control of the municipal apparatus. Thus, a majority of Ferguson policemen ended up being White policemen who believed and acted as if protect and serve meant providing security and comfort for the white citizens only.
SNCC, back in 1967 with its creation and operation of the first all-Black political party—the Lowndes County Freedom Party, aka, the Black Panther Party—had already found out and promoted the political truth that whenever Black people are in the residential majority, they must take control of the local political apparatus. Why are we forgetting that?
Political theater is fine, but real political change requires consistent political strategy and practice. We should never forget that.
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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