Black Lives Matter: The new social revolution is showing up-led by three feminists- and it is where we need to see it. In the gaps, empty promises and pain and injuries and undeniable realities exposed in Ferguson, and across the country in recent months. Feminists have often led the charge for equity and justice in social reform from the 1920’s onward. The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 was designed to have race and sex and country of origin not be a limitation to full equality and access to engagement and production in society. What we see now is the systematic politically and economically driven obstructions have denied the full application of civil rights through mass incarceration, poor schools, poor healthcare, no early education, racial profiling and a police and criminal justice system that is now being confronted.
Senator Bernie Sanders now running for President has many decades of work for civil rights and human rights. He says what is wrong with the country can not be changed, it must be transformed. And that comes from social revolution. A break from the systemic conditions that fill prisons, result in early death and broken hearts is what is required, and that requires not just change but revision coming not from the decay of the missed efforts to civil rights, but a renewal of intention to end the conditions in place and build new opportunity and new hope. Recently Bernie Sanders had a confrontation with the three feminists who formed Black Lives Matter at a Netroots Nation symposium. Netroots Nation is highly progressive in their politics and have done a great deal for dismissing the media’s monopoly on how information is giving to the public. The population has a mixed demography, but is predominantly white, male, college degreed and independent in their political views. This particular event with Senator Sanders came about because he wanted to talk about the changes he wanted to see in the economic structure that rewards 1% of the population. Black Lives Matter wanted to talk about life and death, and the death of Sandra Bland which had happened just days before. Following Freddie Gray, following Michael Brown, and now Sandra Bland there was no room for politics, and Black Lives Matter made that point by interrupting some considered rudely the presentation by Bernie Sanders. Since revolution is by definition unpredictable, designed to cause the effect that Black Lives Matter created on that stage with Bernie Sanders. Since Black Lives Matter has indicated that they will not be in the pocket of either Republican or Democrat Presidential candidates. Now is the time for the killing and imprisonment of young men and women of color to stop, they say. Now is the time for the empty shell of civil rights to be recognized as having not attained its goal: the incorporation and inclusion of all people, regardless of color, sex or country of origin. Enough, they say. Enough.
Just as in the 1960’s when revolution made uncomfortable a public that could not turn away from the disparity between what they believed about our country and what they saw in Viet Nam, in the streets of Selma, on the college campuses, there is a demand, an unflinching demand by Black Lives Matter in a confrontation that has just begun.
Gloria Steinem both speak of the necessity of revolution. Karl Marx pointed to the need of “feminine upheaval” as the means to “great social change” and that progress could be measure by where the “ social position of the fair sex.” Gloria Steinem in the 1970’s argued that reform did not achieve what true revolution does. She pointed to the visibility of sex and race are “a primary way in which human beings organize around superior and inferior groups.” Humanism she pointed out is really the goal and the means by which feminism brings those changes that add to a better world. For men, for women, for all races. And here we are-about to engage in taking further and going deeper into the hypocrisy and outrage that is just below the surface in every major city of the country.
Revolutions are rude, disruptive and have the intention to interrupt, not change, but transform the conditions limiting human potential. Co Founders of Black Lives Matter Patrice Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, began what became a movement after the verdict of the Trayvon Martin, then emerged again as well at the killing of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray-and Sandra Bland-all black killed by white men. The District Attorney and Mayor of Baltimore and Black Lives Matter caused the disruption of elected local and state government, by holding them accountable for police agencies assaults and killings of black men ad women. They stir and demand public awareness and accountability and have through protests gathered a momentum that is now called a movement.
Black Lives Matter is showing up with the message that they want to see black youth presented with opportunities to educate themselves, be trained in job skills and awarded for their youthful enthusiasm and energy rather than left behind and incarcerated . They want to see addiction treated medically rather than the cycle of prison being the only response to those suffering from addiction. While the middle and upper class options of rehab and medical intervention with peer support are available for those with the funds, addiction treated as a criminal offense has only made the offenders, their families and their community loose the value of that person. They want to see the promise of human potential being evenly awarded to this and future generations, they want to see life, liberty and justice awarded to all people. There is every indication, that Black Lives Matter and those criminal justice advocates who have come together will get this result. The Presidential Primary and election will be the background and at the forefront of this revolution that is already underway.