The Struggle: What's YOUR Lane?
Updated: Sep 10, 2020
In the pictures of every protest, every march, you see John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. But behind every movement, every public victory, there was a Bayard Rustin, a Diane Nash, a Mary Ellen Pleasant - people that don’t appear in the pictures and whose names you don’t hear. Some folks are the planners, the strategists, some were the legislators, some brought the sandwiches and water to the march. Everyone can’t march, everyone shouldn’t protest - someone has to bring the bail money, someone has to defend the protesters in court. Everyone has a lane, a role to play and we handicap ourselves when we assume that everyone should play the same role.
In the struggle for African American freedom, some of us effect change from inside the establishment and some from the inside. It aggravates me to hear people advocating for boycotts (Google “Kentucky Derby” and “boycotts”) or resignations (Google “Rochester” and “mayor”) as a response to current events. It makes no sense that we would want Black people who are winning, Black folks who may be our only voice in the system - to resign, step down or not participate in the process. How does it make sense that we would strive to achieve a level of success in an industry or position and then demand that they resign when we need their voices the most? I don’t understand the strategy of removing Black people in positions of power instead of using their positions to our advantage. We should be advocating for ourselves, holding them accountable, and making them our allies. There has to be strategy, pressure, accountability from inside the establishment and from outside. It is insanity to think we can change the systems without participating in them, no matter how frustrating that may be.
That leads me to our individual roles in the struggle. There is a Martin Luthe King, Jr. lane and Bayard Rustin lane. There is a Lovely Warren lane and a Greg Harbut lane. There is a role for protesters and a role for legislators. I don’t believe any role, no matter what it is, is insignificant. We all have a role to play in this - what’s yours?