by Ebonie Johnson Cooper, Chief Millennial Officer
I didn’t wear a hoodie for Trayvon. I didn’t march to Save Our Girls. And I didn’t March for Mike Brown and peace in Ferguson. It’s not that I don’t believe in the causes and I don’t want things to change, it’s that I’m not convinced marching in 2014 is really going to make a difference.
This isn’t 1960 when marching peacefully actually evoked change. Or when the act of sitting in a restaurant sparked a nationwide movement that changed some things. It’s 2014 where people create hashtag campaigns and funky complementary graphics that provide a sense of solidarity. That’s great we all want the same thing but where in all of this is the change happening?
They don’t believe us. We have enough people but we aren’t really doing anything.
We live in a bandwagon, hashtag advocacy society. As long as its trending, we’re hashtagging it. But once the thrill is gone, so are we. We can’t sit still long enough to make sure the change actually happens before we’re off to the next hashtag driven controversy. This “right now for the moment” solidarity we share is indicative of the values of our society and quite frankly, I’m disgusted by it. Caitlin Thompson says is quite well in this Borgen Magazine piece, “Hashtags cater to simplicity, and while this makes for a fast spreading, powerful movement, too much background is neglected, leading to misinterpretations and limited action. …A study on the Kony 2012 movement by psychologists Daniel Sullivan of University of Arizona, Mark Landau of University of Kansas and Aaron Kay of Duke University showed that people tend to lose interest when they realize the issue is more complicated than the hashtag.” Think we’re trippin? What happened to the girls everyone wanted to save a few months back? Where are they now? How many of those hoodies everyone posed for got Zimmerman in jail or helped to pay for legal fees for Trayvon’s family? And how are these marches around the country stopping cops from spraying mace in the faces of children today or tomorrow? Answer me all of this and I may reconsider my position.
We all swear that we would not been slaves or stood for the troubles of the civil rights movements. Ha. The truth is, yes we would’ve. We would’ve because we don’t have the patience and diligence that our parents, grandparents, great and great-great grandparents had. We would be so busy looking for a hashtag to go with our instagram picture or become distracted by the latest pop-culture drama that the opportunity to make sure change happened would be lost. If Martin Luther King wasn’t making a speech at the Lincoln Memorial, we’d be at home tweeting about nonsense or turning up at the next brunch. We’d only show up when there was a moment to shine. The real work happens when there’s no marching, there’s no protesting. The real work happens at the polls during the primaries or a non-presidental election. The real work happens as members of your community-based organizations, at your local city council town hall and in our churches. The real work is not on social media. Social media is great for promoting a message but not change itself. Marching for a day, for a few hours is not going to change anything.
What is going to change things is educating ourselves about the issue and not waiting until another black man is killed to get angry. What’s going to change things is listening to what politicians are saying and voting for who will act on your behalf. (If you haven’t noticed, those in office are acting on the behalf of those who voted for them.) What’s going to change things is watching with discernment, praying (to whatever God you may believe in.) and then making an intentional, well-thought out plan of action.
I’ll be here reading, watching and planning.
8/17/14 UPDATE: Here is the plan of action – and education. Please read and join us! The Young, Black & Giving Back Institute.