Mr. James Jackson walked with Martin Luther King through the streets of Lincolnville – an area rich with history of the civil rights movement. He credits these walks and protests with “pushing President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Today, at the age of 72, he stands at a major intersection of his hometown holding two signs. One says “Black lives matter,” and the other, “All lives matter.” The first sign appeared, held prominently by Mr. Jackson, on July 7 after Philandro Castille was shot by a Minnesota police officer. The second sign appeared on July 8, after the horrendous act of violence against Dallas law enforcement.
Why is he doing this? He says it is because “he believes in the power of the “individual voice” to create a louder voice that can bring about change.” He calls it “protesting.”
I am a child of the 60s/70s. I grew up on protesting. The nightly news was filled with people burning bras, burning flags, spitting on our valiant but weary service members as they defended our country, and calling for massive social change in terms of equal rights for women and people of color.
When I was a child, my mother was not allowed to appear in a restaurant in slacks, and could not stand closer than 10 feet to the bar. She was an early “feminist” – angry at being judged to be a “second class citizen.”
In my first job in a retail department store, renovators and signage makers were removing the last traces of segregated restaurants and facilities.
It is four decades later and we are still protesting, still finding ourselves with biases and prejudices that we thought would be long gone.
We are smarter now, at least “textbook smarter.” We know about the impact and challenges of social change. We know, for example, that telling people to play nice with each other is wasted energy; it is the parameters and rules that are in place to influence people to make the right choice, the consequences of making the wrong choice, and the teaching we do at an early age that shows the way.
We also know empirically that change is difficult and takes a very long time. Perhaps in our zeal to push STEM learning, we have lost some of the teachings of history and the social sciences, and that is a shame because the answer lies there.
So why are we still working to divide rather than unite? Why do we forgive serious transgressions because of popular opinion? Why do we fall victim to listening to and hearing only what we want to hear?
Why have we not learned to work together to explore alternatives that will benefit the whole, while recognizing that those alternatives may not be what everyone wants or need.
Why is Mr. Jackson standing on a corner of a little southern town with signs telling us what we already know…..”all lives matter.”
I wish I could answer all those questions. I used to feel somewhat empowered that if I could write something clearly logical, something that so many people nod their heads and say “Amen,” that I could influence change in the world. But I’m losing faith, and because of that, I’m losing the desire to even try. That makes me sad.
That we have spent the past two years creating an environment where we have to pick between two horrible choices is very frightening. I’ve never been one to run away, but I have trouble caring anymore.
Can’t we learn from history that there are always bad apples, and that our work is to build parameters for the common good, teach and coach people to be the best that they can be, influence those who might turn toward the dark side that there is a better way, and stop blaming everyone for everything?
I’m not sure protesting does anything other than incite those who are ripe to be incited, and cause complacency in everyone else. I commend Mr. Jackson for doing something; it makes me want to do something too.
I wish there were a way to use our intelligence and the lessons of history to do something that might actually make a difference.