Lincoln Anthony Blades, theGrio
When I first heard that #BlackLivesMatter activists decided to upstage 2016 presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Gov. Martin O’Malley at the Netroots Nation convention, I was intrigued. It was a ballsy and apropos move to convey the abject urgency of the movement’s central focus: ending the ongoing executions of black men, women and children at the hands of law enforcement. As 2015 speeds towards being one of the most memorable years of police shootings, the movement is screaming to the establishment that well-behaved patience is no longer possible — not now, when we are in a state of emergency.
Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Marissa Johnson’s bravery in confronting Sanders on stage must not be overlooked, especially to be as bold as to publicly call a liberal Democratic candidate to the carpet. Hell, listening to the outcry from black folks such as Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) who berated them and labelled their actions as “acts of verbal incivility,” further underscores their courage in denouncing racism, even if it upsets white progressives and oh-so respectable negroes.
With that said, I’m not too fond of interrupting any political candidate’s speech. It has nothing to do with respectability politics but more with what I consider an actual effective use of the political system. When Hillary Clinton spoke to BLM activists two weeks ago, she offered them a quick lesson in politics when she said, “I don’t believe you change hearts — you change laws.”
I’m tired of seeing black folks begging for the white establishment and mainstream America to recognize and find remedies to our problems. We cannot expect them to suddenly feel our pain and champion our causes. We must be responsible for keeping our issues in public consciousness and providing legislative solutions to our social ills. And there is one straightforward way the BLM can accomplish both: having a candidate run in the 2016 presidential elections on the Black Lives Matter platform.
Look, I know reading that may have made some of you roll your eyes, face palm or lightly rub the side of your index finger across your forehead. But I promise you, the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. In fact, skeptic reaction to that idea would be very similar to how many responded just over 30 years ago — when Jesse Jackson launched his presidential campaign in 1984.
When Jackson announced he was running for president, he was almost immediately written off by pundits as nothing more than a sideshow that would immediately be crushed by the more polished and mainstream Democrats. His platform included ending the mandatory minimums in the “War on Drugs,” which he believed were racially biased, providing reparations to descendants of black slaves, strictly enforcing the Voting Rights Act, ratifying the Equal Rights amendment and fighting the Apartheid-era South Africa.
However, those were far from being his only political ideologies. He also believed in bringing universal health care to America, cutting the defense budget by as much as 15 percent, increasing punishments on criminal bankers and supporting the formation of a Palestinian state (topics still incredibly relevant today). Yet it was this “radical,” undersized and out-financed campaign that won five primaries and caucuses and finished third behind the former vice president and eventual nominee Walter Mondale and Sen. Gary Hart. The “little candidacy that could” put up impressive numbers in ’84 — and shocked skeptics again in 1988 with virtually the same platform.