Black Millennial Activists: Yes, Our Fight is Legitimate

by Kinsey Clarke

My mother was born in 1951. She was sixteen-years-old when the Detroit Riots of 1967 occurred. She recalls how the military tanks rolled down our street, the fear that hung in the air, but remedies it with the notion that black people back then knew that progress could only be made with respectability and by following the cookie-cutter, whitewashed image of Martin Luther King Jr. and that those who rioted were outliers of the movement. After the Civil Right Era, in which we were “given” our rights, many from that time believed the playing field to be even, and that black people in this country no longer lived a second-class citizenship.

And yet, my mother, and many from her generation, do not want to see the pattern of violence against black people as history repeats itself once again. Apparently Black Millennials “don’t have excuses not to succeed,” and in calling out the state of affairs of black life in America we are “not taking responsibility for ourselves.” Black Millennials, they say, “have the same rights as everyone else now” – though a black kid carrying a toy gun is more of a threat than a white girl with an Uzi. We “aren’t oppressed like they were then” – though we’re still subjected to dangerous stereotypes that could get us killed. We see and are exposed to the expeditious militarization of the police force and how it is used to subdue and intimidate peaceful protesters again and again. We see that though they no longer blast us with high-pressure water hoses, they tear gas us and shoot rubber bullets at us instead. Though the last public lynching occurred in 1981, we can see that the newest trend in psychological warfare of the police shootings of unarmed black people is leaving their bodies in the streets for hours afterward. Even the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan backing the police officers who commit these attacks is not enough to sway the older generation that, yes, our cause is worth fighting for.

What seems to be the issue is that unless the situations are identical, the fight for our right to live peacefully will not be respected by detractors. Even though the terrorization of black people being lightly repackaged and resold as “those thugs getting what they deserve for disobeying the law” is directly paralleled to those who participated in civil disobedience in the 1960’s being told that they “got what they deserved,” the message is clear: Black Millennial activists simply don’t deserve respect because we dare to be different and we dare to be young while doing it.

And why? All because we’re demanding that we have the right to live freely. Millennial activists are called unruly, entitled, and unwilling to obey authority because we created for ourselves a space of community. Our platform of social media has been our tool for communication, coping, reassurance and unity, but because we have such a presence online we are called “unorganized” in our methods. We are blamed on national television for using our platform to express our justified rage, and chastised for daring to share information. We are called violent when we peacefully protest with our hands up – a gesture that is literally the thing a person does when they do not want to incite violence, and have misappropriated MLK quotes thrown at us in an attempt to make us docile. Because we want the youth to be heard instead of giving precedence to those elders who deem themselves worthy of taking leadership over our movement, we are called “disrespectful”.

To my fellow Black Millennial activists: our fight is legitimate. We are sound in our decisions and our struggle will not be infantilized and disregarded.

We are here. We will not be ignored. We will continue to fight for and bring about the change we deserve.

Photo credit: Rena Schild/Shutterstock

Kinsey Clarke is a senior at Michigan State University. She enjoys aerial silks and solo trapeze in her spare time. You can follow her personal Twitter account here.

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