In my final installment of “After the Fire” for The Root, I take a look at the five biggest challenges facing this growing movement. From issues of division to the insidious nature of racism itself, the challenges are many.
Here’s the intro:
If you’re not pissed off, you’re probably not doing it right.
Fighting for the liberation of black people—long term—brings up a lot of emotions. You get tired. It takes a toll. Just ask anyone who’s been doing this work since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 or since last year, Aug. 9, in Ferguson, Mo. They’re exhausted. They’re also forever changed by the good and bad they’ve encountered through their work.
Have they had time to process anything? Hahaha. No. Processing. What’s that?
“It’s impossible,” said Ferguson activist Ashley Yates, known as @BrownBlaze on Twitter. “Anyone who’s still actively out there doing work who came out of the house in August hasn’t been able to process anything. It’s just so massive.”
The death of Michael Brown, the nonindictment of Darren Wilson, and the protests and fires of Ferguson changed everything. Protesters and organizers met the president. They also met several civil rights elders whom they’d admired, but depending on the elder, they were either accepted or felt rejected. Protesters went all over the world talking about America, racism and black liberation; then they went back home and found that changing the landscape of a stubbornly segregated and systemically racist place like St. Louis, Cleveland, Baltimore—America—was a task not of a few weeks, months or even a year but of a lifetime.
In the face of that—the prospect of a lifetime of fighting racism—some may grow weary. Some may bow out. Some may move on, and no one would be able to blame them. But many will stay, will fight on and will weather what storms may come, their “lives transformed” by this work.
“It’s kind of hard to go back to what you were before once you start doing this work,” said Michael McPhearson, executive director of Veterans for Peace and co-chair of the Don’t Shoot Coalition. “I’m sure there are a number of individuals who are in it for the long haul, [and] some who will drop out and come and go.”
For those sticking with it, here are the challenges many protesters and organizers outlined in the 40 interviews that The Root conducted for this series.