Dec. 7, 2014 (San Diego) Marches have developed a logic and rhythm of their own. Marchers know that they can walk and scream about control and vent their rage. This is justified, and rage is justified. But the question remains? What now?
The 1960s, which is the closest period where we saw a successful protest movement also saw people taking to the streets, and take the streets. In fact, it saw extremely successful civil disobedience. The Woolworth lunch counter strikes helped to nationalize a movement. Freedom summer, of which last summer was the 50th anniversary, brought college, mostly white college students, from northern schools to the south to register African-American to vote.
The language back then was different, though the language used by racists has developed new codes. Also, the south was a somewhat different place where Democrats dominated the political arena. Public lynchings were common, for example.
These days the movement is already nationalized, and localized. We have screams for reform at the Department of Justice and technological solutions.
The old Jim Crow south is rising, and while pundits observe that the last democrat lost her Senate seat to a Republican, the south has not changed. So what if Republicans are now in charge? Political Parties change and President Lyndon Johnson did predict that the Democrats would lose the south for at least a generation. It’s been longer, but modern day Republicans are the dixicrats of the Old South. This has not changed, just that pundits are afraid of saying it.
So what now?
One of the lessons of those civil rights organizers of old was that people had to vote. Why modern day republicans are doing all they can to suppress minorities from voting. While this fashion has not hit California, still, what now? After all, it is a matter of time before they do. While right now we have a progressive multicolored majority in both the Legislature and the Governor’s office that will not remain forever.
Marching was not enough back then. It will hardly be enough now. This is where organizing beyond the street comes in and digging in for the long haul. The names of those student organizations are long dead.
The Student Democratic Society (SDS) was concerned with civil rights, mostly in Ann Arbor Michigan. The Freedom Riders mentioned above engaged in registering people to vote, and worked in the Deep South. They were seen as interlopers, and some paid with their lives. James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael, “Mickey” Scherner, those are the names.
The Black Panthers emerged from the frustrations with an overtly racist country, starting in California. It included the open carry of guns, which then Governor Ronald Reagan did not approve off and had the legislature pass laws against. Then there is ACORN, one of the most successful organizing efforts in minority communities ever, why it had to go.
This is why the Feds used CONTRIELPRO to destroy some of it. This was a government program that the Feds ran that was meant to spy on foreign spies, but was transformed into an internal tool to disrupt the Civil Rights movement. It was exposed during the the 1976 Senate Church Committee hearings. In theory it was disbanded as antithetical to the American way of life.
Why ACORN was brought down in 2011 in a scandal created by right wing media.
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were murdered. Their voices had to be taken away, and silenced.
So, the questions remains…what now?
The first thing to recognize is the predictable opposition by some sectors of American society that has not forgotten the direct action of the 1960s. Granted, it was opposed back then, so it should not come as a surprise there is opposition now.
The movement is just emerging and it will find it’s voice, but it will need to find a voice beyond the streets. The Department of Justice investigations and body cameras are part of the solution, and are emerging from street pressure, but the problem is attitudinal. Racism is still very much part of the fabric of American society. It is just better hidden. Nobody will use the N word, but they will use Thug. Some will applaud the heavy-handed treatment of minorities by police.
What we are witnessing, since the election of the first African-American President is white rage at the success of an African-American and the changing world around them. Fear is a powerful driver, but people of color are not three fifths human, or less than. They are full members of the society, and in a multicultural country we are seeing the emergence of an Apartheid system of sorts. One where people of color live in somewhat segregated communities, going to substandard schools, and being feared by those who hold power.
We are also witnessing something else we also saw in the 1960s. The student movement was not limited to American colleges. Student movements are global. We are also witnessing the first claims of agent provocateurs, both in the United States and Mexico, like we did in the 1960s.
Nadin Abbott holds a master’s degree in History from San Diego State University.
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