Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The new civil rights movement doesn’t need an MLK

Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. And now Walter Scott. These names mark iconic deaths — unnecessary, violent ends for black men and boys in America. Often missing from this list but equally important are black women and girls — Renisha McBride, Aiyana Jones or Sakia Gunn — also killed by police or vigilantes. These deaths have provoked wide-scale protests and calls for systemic change: demilitarization of the police; a broader agenda of equality that includes more jobs, better schools and increased political power for the disenfranchised; and more accountability of power holders. With the spread and growth of protests, two questions have captured the public imagination: Will these events lead to a new civil rights moment? If so, where is the next Martin Luther King Jr.?

Both of these questions mistake the present moment and reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the 1960s. There is a new movement afoot, but it doesn’t need an MLK.


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