What is also important about the Arab Spring reference is that it is now commonly associated with what was called the "Arab Winter" - the coercive backlash by governments that was prompted. Will Moore and I talked about this in some detail. This should give pause to those talking about the Black Spring because it reminds us that political authorities will more likely engage in some activities to re-assert themselves as well as re-establish some order - let's call it (yes you guessed it), the "Black Winter". The question remains how are authorities going to respond. One response could be the declaration that police will be investigated which happened recently in Baltimore (accommodation). Another response involves the establishment of curfews (repression). There will likely be discussions of investigatory committees, focus groups, town hall meetings and so forth (channeling and delaying). There might even be some talk of police reform (actual change). Perhaps all of the above.
All of this should sound familiar. We have been here before. This is one of the ways that we got back to this point (Back to the Future, yet again). Recently I talked about the Kerner Commission report (published in 1967) and perhaps the most depressing aspect of the discussion was the degree to which the problems currently being discussed were the same ones discussed in the report. What we will not likely see is a deeper, broader discussion of economic development or the lack thereof; the meaning of true political power in America; and, what tactics are most effective in bringing forward lasting social change (for the last one see the syllabus from my course "Saving the World or Wasting Time" for some good reading on this).
Interestingly, we are seemingly caught in a circle, like the seasons. Black Spring inevitably leads to Black Winter but before we get there we might just see a Black Summer. Not like a dark one with no sunlight. There will be plenty of light; perhaps a fire or two. You might not remember those references to the hot times of the late 1960s and early 1970s but when black folk got agitated back then, the summers were long, contentious and pretty destructive. We might be heading this way as the momentum for the diverse movements seems to be building. One explanation for Baltimore's seemingly quick appeasement might be avoiding this thing going into June and July.
But, what exactly is building? This I am not sure about. I am sure, however, what it is not. On Twitter I started seeing comparisons between Black Lives Matter to the black power movement but I think that attempting to find some relevance and similarities to these earlier struggles is somewhat misguided. Think about it. In Black Lives Matter, they are asking for the following:
- We will seek justice for Brown’s family by petitioning for the immediate arrest of officer Darren Wilson and the dismissal of county prosecutor Robert McCullough. Groups that are part of the local Hands Up Don’t Shoot Coalition have already called for Wilson’s swift arrest, and some BLM riders also canvassed McCullough’s neighborhood as a way of raising the public’s awareness of the case.
- We will help develop a network of organizations and advocates to form a national policy specifically aimed at redressing the systemic pattern of anti-black law enforcement violence in the US. The Justice Department’s new investigation into St Louis-area police departments is a good start, but it’s not enough. Our ride was endorsed by a few dozen local, regional and national organizations across the country – like the National Organization for Women (Now) and Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation – who, while maintaining different missions, have demonstrated unprecedented solidarity in response to anti-black police violence. We hope to encourage more organizations to endorse and participate in a network with a renewed purpose of conceptualizing policy recommendations.
- We will also demand, through the network, that the federal government discontinue its supply of military weaponry and equipment to local law enforcement. And though Congress seems to finally be considering measures in this regard, it remains essential to monitor the demilitarization processes and the corporate sectors that financially benefit from the sale of military tools to police.
- We will call on the office of US attorney general Eric Holder to release the names of all officers involved in killing black people within the last five years, both while on patrol and in custody, so they can be brought to justice – if they haven’t already.
- And we will advocate for a decrease in law-enforcement spending at the local, state and federal levels and a reinvestment of that budgeted money into the black communities most devastated by poverty in order to create jobs, housing and schools. This money should be redirected to those federal departments charged with providing employment, housing and educational services.
Essentially, they are asking not to get shot and they are appealing to existing authorities to assist them while they create a network.
- We Want Freedom. We Want Power To Determine
The Destiny Of Our Black Community.We believe that Black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.
- We Want Full Employment For Our People.We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the White American businessmen will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
- We Want An End To The Robbery
By The Capitalists Of Our Black Community.We believe that this racist government has robbed us, and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over fifty million Black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.
- We Want Decent Housing Fit For The Shelter Of Human Beings. We believe that if the White Landlords will not give decent housing to our Black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people.
- We Want Education For Our People That Exposes The True Nature Of This Decadent American Society. We Want Education That Teaches Us Our True History
And Our Role In The Present-Day Society. We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.
- We Want All Black Men To Be Exempt From Military Service. We believe that Black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like Black people, are being victimized by the White racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.
- We Want An Immediate End To Police Brutality And Murder Of Black People. We believe we can end police brutality in our Black community by organizing Black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all Black people should arm themselves for self- defense.
- We Want Freedom For All Black Men Held In Federal, State, County And City Prisons And Jails. We believe that all Black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.
- We Want All Black People When Brought To Trial To Be Tried In Court By A Jury Of Their Peer Group Or People From Their Black Communities, As Defined By The Constitution Of The United States. We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that Black people will receive fair trials. The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the Black community from which the Black defendant came. We have been, and are being, tried by all-White juries that have no understanding of the "average reasoning man" of the Black community.
- We Want Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice And Peace.When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect of the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Essentially, the Panthers were arguing that there was no government (at least one that was protecting black folk) and that without this protection, they reserved the right to displace the current system and protect themselves. Black Lives Matter hints at this direction but in the final analysis they appeal to the same political authorities that are complicit with the current policies that have not yet protected black lives. Perhaps there is some nuance here with appealing to attorney general instead of more local officials but there is no clear reason to believe that this would work over the short or long term.
The Black Lives Matter movement also differs from the subject of my latest book - The Republic of New Africa (depicted below).
To be clear, I do not mention the differences above to downgrade the current efforts being undertaken to rid America of one of its darkest blemishes. Rather, I suggest that in order to move forward (truly forward), it is necessary for Americans to look and see where it has come from, which paths were as well as were not taken and which way it might need to go in the future. I too would like to connect the current activities to a broader historical trajectory of awareness and resistance but let's not get carried away with comparisons. Let us not also look at the current activities as if we have not seen this before. Indeed, I will dust off some old "riot"/"rebellion"/"urban disturbance" data that I have and provide some comparisons when I get a minute. In the meantime, Black Lives Matter might just be more like the I am a Man campaign than the black power movement.