My background is mostly focused on campaigns and party-building, not direct action, but as a communications professional and grassroots activist for over a decade I see clear problems with the direction of Ferguson-inspired activists.
Yet there’s a reason why that might make me even more qualified to offer my analysis as my work has been directly responsible for change in our society from supporting leadership that has rescued the country from a Great Recession to providing universal health care protections and more affordable care for millions of people across America.
That’s because my energy has been channeled toward solutions not just protest. I went to an anti-war rally during the Bush years but I spent MOST of my time trying to remove him and his supporters from office with candidates who opposed or wanted to dismantle his foreign policy blunders. And I tried to reach as many people as possible so our side had the votes to make it happen.
But what I’m seeing from the protests right now disturbs me. Following the total catastrophe of the riots over Michael Brown there has also been a focus on shutting down highways or trains as well as boycotting Black Friday and white-owned businesses.
First off, rioting IS still violence. Even if you don’t hurt a person, you’re destroying a community when you ransack a store and are ruining the livelihoods of a business owner, their employees AND their customers….of all races.
I am a firm believer that my Rights end where yours begin. This is where liberals win the argument against Second Amendment extremism and numerous social injustices.
By creating a traffic jam with no explanation to the people dozens of cars deep who are trying to get to work or to their families makes no sense to me. This just doubles down on "occupation" techniques but is much more of a disruption than the minor convenience of a march or crowd in a park.
And of course, there is no better way to create unity than to call for people to halt their Thanksgiving weekend holiday shopping with family OR make race-based purchasing decisions!
This is a waste of everyone’s time and is NOT activism….just an excuse for useless anger often powered by fringe anarchists.
Instigating confrontation and creating division won’t help your cause. All you need to do is recall Occupy just three years ago as it was co-opted. In DC, protesters got bored of the peaceful-ness when dealing with DC cops and decided to “occupy” a downtown abandoned-building to demand it be used for the homeless (there was a meeting to discuss the issue but apparently they couldn’t wait?) and dis-obeyed reasonable park regulations with the help of some unsavory infiltrators.
The angry protests are getting headlines right now but are not spreading a message or gathering support….they will alienate the public.
Remember what Chris Rock said recently about racial progress meaning white people are “less crazy” and give them one less reason to feel victimized….you’re going to need to win over ALL hearts and minds to truly be successful.
And it’s time for Peaceful protests not just “non-violent” ones….the messaging expert George Lakoff would probably argue that you shouldn’t reinforce a negative by using the term “violent” anywhere near your action. A truly peaceful March or Vigil can create positive media attention if the message is about Hope not Hate.
There are several other ways to channel your protest energy in a democracy that elected an African-American President:
- VOLUNTEER TO GET OTHERS TO VOTE.
- CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS WITH SPECIFIC POLICY PROPOSALS.
- GET OTHERS TO CONTACT ELECTED OFFICIALS VIA PETITIONS & OTHER ADVOCACY TOOLS.
- CONTACT THE MEDIA.
- RECRUIT OTHERS TO HELP YOU REACH THE MEDIA.
- ATTEND A RALLY FOR A SOLUTION.
- RECRUIT OTHERS TO ATTEND RALLIES.
Now, of course, sometimes all of this might not work BUT it definitely won’t work if you don’t try….and I just recently read about the lowest voter turnout since WWII so I know someone you know isn’t trying.
Meanwhile, there is no reason to go “nuclear” by trying to shut down society, remember that you’re not Mandela….you have a President and a large swath of a nation on your side.
Seize on the opportunities posed by the more well-documented cases like Eric Garner or Tamir Rice that even white Americans and conservatives have been alarmed about.
Remember that when you’re winning the race you can afford to turn on the Cruise Control and let the car drive for awhile….and avoid the risks of a reckless crash. George H.W. Bush didn't do a touchdown dance on the Berlin Wall for a reason.
Use a “big picture” approach with messages like #blacklivesmatter or solutions for “community policing” that President Obama is working on and don’t get bogged down in discussing one case or a random assortment of complaints.
It’s time to lay the groundwork for a movement NOT a tinder box.
About “Forward Progressive” Blog:
Grassroots Social & Media Strategist Jim McBride writes about "post-partisan" forward-minded solutions to policy and campaign issues that prioritize strategies that appeal to broad coalitions of voters and supporters to ensure movement success.
He was the Founder of Generation Webb and Generation Obama-Washington, DC chapter as well as one of the lead organizers of Virginia For Obama’s grassroots-led primary campaign. He is currently the President of the grassroots community Network For Progress and has over 20 years in communications and political work.