By: David M. Good
Mid-April, sitting at a Starbucks right off I-20 in Douglasville, west of Atlanta. I’m drinking a bottle of water that I brought from home. I’ve bought no beverage and have gone to the restroom twice and no-one has asked me to leave or have been given any bad looks from the manager or baristas. Granted today is about 5 days removed from the incident in Philadelphia that ended in two black men being asked to leave a Starbucks and when not complying, were arrested for trespassing. You can read all about the details through social media.
I sit here in reflection of what happened 50 years ago and beyond during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, when many acts were established, and many federal laws were passed to guarantee, not the rights, the enacting of those rights by all Americans. I dig deeper and reflect on Dr. King and the lessons he learned along with others like Reverend Abernathy and Fannie Lou Hamer during the fight for equality. Though different methods, Malcolm X used education, thought and world view to push his agenda for a better world for people.
Reflecting on the past is to see what has been done. Dr. King not only turned to his faith and the teachings of Jesus Christ, he also looked to the past to the Indian activist, Mahatma Gandhi, who held a policy of passive aggression to lead to Indian independence. Non-violent protest. He did not look back to him and say if he were alive today and saw that his nation had nuclear weapons, what would he do. No, he looked back at him and learned about a method and put it to use. The Freedom riders and those who did the sit-ins, protest in the streets from their HBCU’s were using the only weapon they had and that was fighting against oppression and Jim-Crow laws and block of access to fair wages and equality. There were Boycotts: Montgomery bus Boycott; There were protest: Fighting for fair wages in Memphis; There were sit-ins: Woolworth’s Sit-ins. All of these were successful.
Fast-forward, a generation and a half later, those are no longer issues that are fought about. Now it’s police brutality against primarily unarmed black men, unfair treatment in places of business and lack of respect. The problem is people don’t know what the issue is they are fighting or what type of fight. There is a difference between boycotting and protesting and protesting and siting-in (silent protest).
Ferguson, Missouri 2014: Teenager Mike Brown, unarmed was shot and killed by police and left dead on the street. Following the acquittal, mass demonstrations and protest against the legal process and calling out Black Life Matters. This protest, though fiery, led to changes because there were people who looked deeper and follow Kings other philosophy of going after policy. The police chief resigned and in the next election, most of those in power were not re-elected. This was a demonstration that others took advantage of for self-reasons, but the demonstration netted positive results. That must be recognized. Like Dr. King and Rev. Abernathy, they learned from the Albany movement of what was needed for the Selma to Montgomery March and used that knowledge for a positive result, that became the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Learning from your Past.
Now we have a situation where people are saying boycott Starbucks, but boycotting means you will not support until a certain thing is done. What was or is that certain thing. Others were demonstrating at that location wanting something to be done. The result of this was the President of the Starbucks firing the manager who called police on those two men and then will shut down all stores on a particular day to make sure all of their employees receive diversity training and knows their own policies. Therefore, those who were boycotting then should stop because like the Montgomery Boycott, once the law was made equal, black customers started riding again. But someone recently got on me saying why am I supporting this place. I never had an issue before and I patron two different ones and I also support two Black- owned coffee shops in Atlanta, Community Grounds and Urban Grind. I say to all look back at the dreamer, freedom riders, those who did more for less pay and all those who dared to dream for a brighter future and learn from them and be that future. Boycott when need to but do so with a resolution. In this, people will come together and stick together because there is a plan.
That’s why the NFL so-called boycott is upsetting. Colin Kaepernick decided to do a silent protest against police brutality and other injustices against people of color by kneeling during the National Anthem before each game and others across the league joined him. Some people were upset with him but did not see he was using his platform to bring attention to an issue he cared about. When he rejected the 49ers offer and tested the free agent market, people stated they will boycott the NFL because no team would bring him in, not even to try out. They made it about the NFL. The problem is people forgot what his protest was about, it was not the NFL, it was injustice in the court system and police brutality. The NFL even gave millions to fight against social injustices. Can you imagine if we took that energy towards the NFL and directed it where it should be, which is this institution that allows people of color to be killed simply because of the color of our skin or denied the same rights and beliefs given to others. Learn from the past but do not just look, learn and educate yourself. Chase the Dreamer and find out what can be done and come up with a solution to resolution and maybe revolution.