Home 9 Opinion 9 Is Marching Enough?

“NO. IT. IS. NOT.

So on a scale of ‘I’m not a master at spades’ to ‘I can’t even fry chicken’, how fast would my Black card be revoked if I said I was sick of marching? Once again America is on fire – literally.  After the world watched Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin viciously murder George Floyd on May 25, 2020, marches and riots flared up all across the country in protest of police violence.  Tens of thousands of people around the country and the entire world poured into the streets to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others who were killed at the hands of the police. 

 

By July of 2020, either a march or a protest was held in more than 140 cities throughout the nation.  Here in Los Angeles, I put on my Black Lives Matter mask and joined them. But I must admit I moved a little slow this time.  Not because I was any less upset, seeing a grown man beg for his life until he finally succumbed to death. This time I moved a little slower because I had already marched for Ezel Ford, I marched for Trayvon Martin, and I also marched for Mike Brown. Nothing has really changed. Every time an unarmed  Black person is killed by police, we march and scream, “ black lives matter”, but no real change occurs. We rinse, repeat, and recycle. 

Despite being weary, I still gathered myself up and marched for George Floyd, but before I could throw my picket sign away, I blinked and three more people were killed by police. It was like my nightmare had come true.  I could hear the verse from the popular Lil Uzi song playing on repeat in my head, but I couldn’t find the remote. 

I don’t really care if you cryyyyyy… All my friends are dead Push me to the edge

On June 12th Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe fatally shot Rayshard Brooks after responding to a call that a man was asleep in a Wendy’s parking lot. 

All my friends are dead Push me to the edge

 

On June 18th Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy fatally shot 18-year-old Andres Guardado in the back, because he was armed and running away – Guardado was a security guard.

All my friends are dead Push me to the edge

 

On August 23rd Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times – in front of his kids. Blake narrowly escaped death but was left paralyzed.

No. Really. I’m being pushed to the edge. 

We’ve been marching since before we were even the “New Negroes.” In 1917, the first major protest for Black rights in America was organized by the NAACP, America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. W.E.B Dubois, a founding member of the NAACP, would later become one of the godfathers of the Harlem Renaissance, a movement that championed the rights of Black Americans by showcasing the advancements of “the New Negroes.” The protest, which was later called the ‘Silent Protest Parade’, consisted of over 10,000 people silently marching down 5th Avenue in New York City to protest the massacre of Blacks in St. Louis earlier that year.  The march garnered national attention. An NAACP flyer advertising the march stated the group’s aims: “We march because we want our children to live in a better land and enjoy fairer conditions than have fallen to our lot.”

Black people have been marching ever since yet the violence never stopped. 

No disrespect to those who marched before us, but marching alone does not decrease police violence.

Now I am not trying to get struck down by the ancestors for not acknowledging their accomplishments (yall saw what they did to Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic’s knee? Yikes!)  I am eternally grateful to those who got into ‘good trouble’ so that I can live freely today.  Their blood, sweat, and tears – and yes, their marches – pushed for legislation that allowed Black people to go from being someone’s actual property to being able to own our own property, drink from whatever faucet we want, and most importantly, to vote.  As we continue to fight for our rights, we must use both marching and legislation to end police violence. 

In the 60s the televised Civil Rights marches were an integral part of our fight for civil rights because they helped to shine a light on the many atrocities that Black people had to endure. Once horrific images such as the “Bloody Sunday” march were televised across the nation, white Americans could no longer turn a blind eye to the violence.  Many were then moved to support the creation of new civil rights laws the marchers were calling on the Congress to pass. 

Similar to the marches in the 60s, today’s social media has become an invaluable tool used to spread knowledge about incidents of police violence throughout the country.  A search through #BlackLivesMatter and #BLM hashtags on any of the major social media platforms will bring up horrific images of police violence in the Black community.  However, unlike the civil rights movement, today’s marches and hashtags are not often connected to an organized push for legislation that people and/or businesses can support. This is a grave mistake. 

Current statistics show marching alone does not  have an impact on police killings. How impactful is it? Try almost null. In 2015 after the high-profile police killing of Mike Brown and the very high-profile marches that resulted, The Washington Post began collecting data on the amount of police killings that occur in the nation. Despite the amount of national attention the marches placed on police conduct, police shootings stayed rather stable every year since the report began in 2015. And what’s more, 2020 is on par to continue the stable line of police killings.  

Constantly sharing information of police violence without a call of action to change legislation, will likely cause Americans to become desensitized to the violence and the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag runs the risk of becoming just another hashtag. We cannot let this happen.  

 

Today’s civil rights organizations that fail to lead the fight for police accountability laws are doing a grave disservice to the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors and the civil rights movement. 

Our ancestors fought so hard for the right to vote so that we could have our voices heard throughout the entire political process not just for us to cast a ballot and get a sticker for the day.  They fought hard for us to be able to vote, attend legislative hearings for bills we support, meet with our elected officials to present our issues and even become elected officials if we so choose. Civic engagement is power. A power that our ancestors could only dream we’d have.  This is the power we must use to stop police violence in our communities. 

Civil rights organizations, especially the ones with large memberships and multi-state infrastructures, are best equipped to use civic engagement tactics against police violence.  Creating police accountability legislation throughout the country has always been a difficult task because state governments, not the federal government, have jurisdiction over policing agencies. In order to achieve real change in policing throughout the entire country we must change the laws state-by-state.  Civil rights organizations that have multistate memberships already have the communication structure in place to organize a push for police accountability legislation. Civic engagement is the strongest weapon we have in our arsenal, we must use it to our best ability to actually change our lives.  

It is time for organizations to stop fighting to convince America that Black people deserve civil rights, and start fighting for legislation that takes away the rights of those who violate our civil rights. 

America’s systemically racist criminal justice system essentially deputizes officers as soldiers and enables them to kill unarmed Black people on sight, without being held accountable. But I defer to your judgement. This is a direct threat to not only our civil rights but also our rights as human beings. In order to protect our rights, we must take away the power & protection afforded to officers who impede upon them.  

Passing laws that hold officers accountable for using excessive force is the only way to stop the violence.  Before an officer kneels on a neck, he should be worried about whether or not he will lose his livelihood.  Before an officer attacks a kid walking home, he should be worried about whether his actions will cause him to lose the pension that helps to feed his kids. Enough is enough!

Marching and protesting was passed down from the ancestors like a good family recipe – but we must also do the work. 

I would never belittle the strides that our ancestors have made to get us here (again, I love my knees!)  and marching is a huge factor. Instead I decided to honor them by moving the fight forward. A few months ago I started an organization named ‘From Protests to Progress’ and I led a march with the National Action Network Los Angeles to demand the passage of police accountability laws in California.  We marched to the stairs of local officials and presented the suggested police accountability legislation.  This month we plan to hold community meetings with those same officials to follow up on our demands. 

Thankfully, there are many other social justice organizations fighting for policy changes as well. Tamika Mallory’s Until Freedom organization joined with local social justice organizations in Louisville Kentucky to hold numerous protests while also fighting for the successful passage of the law banning no-knock warrants. Shaun King, a popular social justice advocate, however controversial, has created a PAC focused on supporting elected officials who show interest in fighting for community rights.  Alicia Garza is making major waves with Black Futures Lab. Also, Al Sharpton and National Action Network New York helped to successfully push for the passage of the Eric Gardner law that makes police chokeholds a felony.  

Yes, we’re on the edge, but maybe it’s because we are on the edge of something great. Let’s get to work!  It will truly take all of us to make this happen. Marching is good, but there are more steps that need to be taken. The time for action is NOW. 

By Rasheda Kilpatrick | @thatgirlsheed 

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