Barry Saunders

Sure, you kids can protest – but volunteering in your communities would be better

Marissa Johnson, left, speaks as Mara Jacqueline Willaford holds her fist overhead and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., stands nearby as the two women take over the microphone at a rally Aug. 8, 2015, in downtown Seattle. The women, co-founders of the Seattle chapter of Black Lives Matter, took over the microphone and refused to relinquish it.
Marissa Johnson, left, speaks as Mara Jacqueline Willaford holds her fist overhead and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., stands nearby as the two women take over the microphone at a rally Aug. 8, 2015, in downtown Seattle. The women, co-founders of the Seattle chapter of Black Lives Matter, took over the microphone and refused to relinquish it. AP

“Don’t talk to me about foot massages. I’m the foot ... master.” – Jules Winnfield in “Pulp Fiction.”

“Don’t talk to me about protests. I’m the protest ... master.” – Me.

At least I was. In college, if there was a protest and a chance that it might include women or free food, just show me where to sign up. Apartheid, MLK Jr. holiday, save the whales?

Right on, baby. I was down for the cause.

That’s why you won’t hear me bashing the Black Lives Matter kids for commandeering microphones during political rallies.

As unhip old fuddy duddies, we have no right to try to tell those young people that what they’re doing is wrong or, worse, counterproductive. When students at Shaw, N.C. A&T and other universities started marching, sitting in and going to jail during the 1960s, you just know there were some old graybeards sitting on the sidelines going, “Y’all gon’ make Mr. Gilmo’ mad.”

It’s young people’s duty to upset stuff. And it’s old people’s duty to look at them and shake their heads, as if they had all the answers when they were that age.

Of course, if that were true, things wouldn’t be so messed up. And today’s young people wouldn’t have to be out there grabbing microphones.

Without condemning the protesters, one can still question how they hope to achieve their goal by their acts of civil disobedience. First, though, you’d have to ask what is their goal.

It’s ostensibly to call attention to the fact that, yes, black lives matter, too, and they want politicians who hope to receive black votes to acknowledge that fact. A legitimate aim, sure, but one that is being drowned out by the cacophony of criticism leveled at their methods.

Last time I checked, neither Bernie Sanders nor Jeb Bush – the latest victims of microphone commandeering – had killed anybody, had shot a 13-year-old boy sitting in a car, had shot a 9-year-old girl in the eye. Both of those tragedies occurred in this area in the past couple of weeks, and neither Sanders nor Bush has been fingered as a suspect in either incident. I checked.

The people who would commit such acts, the people who most often make black lives seem inconsequential, are the ones who should be targeted by pickets holding “#Black Lives Matter” signs.

Are they supposed to confront them or take the weapons from their hands?

That way lies madness. And a toe tag.

What, then, can they do?

They can put a book in their hands. That’s right, a book.

You’ve got to catch them early, though. At a meeting in Raleigh last week between community activists, residents and a police representative, local gadfly Bruce Lightner stated his belief that the “children” who are making some communities more dangerous than actual war zones resort to “anti-social behavior” after becoming frustrated with school early, dropping out and finding themselves essentially unemployable.

Lightner was right. Statistics from the Department of Justice and other sources show that two-thirds of children who can’t read by fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare, and that 85 percent of all youth who come in contact with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. It also says that over 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth-grade level.

Dope dealers, often the employers of last or only resort, don’t care if you can read, though.

Here’s a suggestion for today’s college students who want to protest: Y’all leave Bernie alone, and go into Southeast Raleigh and work with young kindergarteners and elementary school pupils to help ensure that they don’t fall behind academically. Shaw and St. Augustine’s universities – yes, it’s their responsibility – should be flooding these neighborhoods with volunteers seeking to make sure that the next generation of children are picking up books, not guns.

That’ll really show that black lives matter.

  Comments