The events of 2014 which begun by the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked a national debate that focused on criminal justice, police behavior, and widening inequality in America. More than that, they also gave birth to an energetic and passionate civil rights movement in America.
The killing of Eric Garner in New York which was videotaped added to the many questions the public was asking on the issue of social tensions. A well-coordinated network of millennial activists started resurfacing and in 2014, the force of the new social justice movement became real. The political mainstream which had for quite some time ignored the calls for the rising social injustice gradually stated reckoning with the new civil rights movement.
The New versus the Old
Compared to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the new reenergized millennial movement is unique in a number of ways.
Social Media Driven
For instance, this movement is driven more by social media and hashtags than open air rallies and marches. Instead of getting hold of a mega phone and spearheading a movement, young people of color have taken on Twitter and leveraged the magnifying effect and wider reach of social media. The stories of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin have been magnified through the help of twitterverse.
A Broader Agenda
The new civil rights movement has a much wider agenda compared to the earlier movement. Currently, the movement includes the LGBTQ community and those pushing for immigration reforms. Among the issues that concern the young grassroots activists include educational inequalities, school to prison pipeline, over-policing of the Latino and black communities among others. Simply put, the modern movement is taking on deeply entrenched discrimination issues instead of just systematic biases.
The renewal of the civil rights movement has revealed a bottom up approach where young unknowns are taking up the leadership of the various groups. The older activists are kind of taking a backseat and a more conservative approach that is way different from what the younger generation perceives.
The Fannie Lou Hamer-Ella Baker Model
The younger activists are inclined to the Fannie Lou Hamer-Ella Baker Model which is an approach that encourages grassroots activism with a widely diffused agency. Baker, though a lesser known personality was one of the most influential strategists in the civil rights era. She assisted in founding the Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The idea of Baker is that democracy needs to be participatory and not just around a few leaders or a personality. She advocates for a kind of leadership where the spokespeople and leaders are not visible beyond the group. It’s some sort of a leaderless movement.
The reason explaining the resurgence of the civil rights movement, but with new energy is the fact that the American society is going back to the earlier days of segregation. Despite the Brown v. Board of Education, Voting Rights Act, and Fair Housing Act, the racial gaps that were once narrowing, are now gradually becoming gaping chasms.