Over the past few years America has seen a resurgence of major social movements. Not since the era of civil rights has the news been plastered with widespread protests by organizations, debate over these groups, and positive and negative outcomes from them. I must admit my elation at the even more recent explosion of social activism over the past month with the women’s march. However, as these social movements grow at an exceptional rate and become more ubiquitous, one glaring issues tends to dominate debate on the legitimacy and effectual nature of these movements. What do they want? Now it is understandable for a person that aligns with any of these social groups to answer: “better rights” or “for politicians to listen” yet these answers and any other answers, dare I say, fall short of satisfying that question. This is not because the social groups messages are unclear whether its Black Lives Matter, March for Life, or any alt-right group. The reason their answers fall short is because they speak as a homogenous group with heterogeneous ideas. A pundit, a news caster, a comedian, or commentator cannot decisively say what legislation these groups want to pass, what politicians these groups back, or even what are the major grievances, outside the one of its origin.
There is an old saying “don’t pull the cart before the horse”. This old adage conveys the idea that a person has to have a logical order to things. A person has to plan for one thing in order to do the thing that they want. I use this adage as an example for the recent social movements. I do not mean to take away from the attention that they have gained. And I do not deny their power or legitimacy. What I am cognizant of is the fact that no matter how many protests, no matter how many rallies, no matter how many petitions, or strikes a group has it does not mean much if their issues are not delineated. The one thing that I am asking for and the one thing that people are looking for is a representative.
Though there may be cases against it; messages are water done to a generalization and they do not necessarily portray the feelings or actions of the entire group. Nevertheless, a spokesperson or a representative gives these groups the ability to debate, converse, and declare their grievances before the media, a greater audience, and even their political representatives. It does a social move a disservice to have pundits, politicians, commentators, and all others outside of their group attempt to conceptualize and sometimes demonize the social movement as a whole.
You need the horse. You need some sort of vehicle to drive your points and defend them in an open forum. I know that there are some people who have either been declared or self-appointed spokespeople of certain social movements and occasionally get a spotlight in the media. But what I challenge is to name one or two leaders of any of these movements. Sure we have those who founded them. We have those who organize rallies and protests. Who do we have with a list of laws that need to be changed? Who has meetings with the representatives? When the media wants to ask certain questions who do they go to? The unfortunate part is that, as far as I have seen, many news sources on all sides of the political spectrum, have to make generalizations and guesses as to what these social movements feel like needs to change.
I want to use Black Lives Matter as an example because they are fresh and they have a website which many would point to as a rebuttal to my argument. BLM have chapters, donation pages, what they stand for, and what they hope to accomplish. So then what is missing, one might ask? Who are the leaders of these chapters? They state their policies differ from chapter to chapter, so does that mean ideology differs as well? They want to fight for diversity but what does that look like? What laws, policies, etc. are impeding or actively baring diversity from happening? If someone wanted to book a speaker from BLM to lecture about what their purpose is who do you contact and what credentials does this person have?
I know that someone can say these questions can be asked through the BLM website’s contact page, but that provides the problem. If a clear representation is not readily available, it leads to outsiders to define what BLM means. That is why media can openly call them terrorist and hate groups. Who’s out there to deny it? As loud and as prevalent as these social movements are and can be they don’t actually have a voice in front of the people who can actually assist them in making a difference.
So I implore those who have the ability to be up front to be up front. I implore those who disagree with me to show me examples of how legislation and conversation has changed in the grand scheme without having a face for the social movement. I know that there are issues with having a person be the face of an organization. That person’s personal life will have to be under a microscope. The message will get generalized. However, these are things that can be controlled. It is better to have a horse to pull your cart to the places you need to be than for you push your cart in places you cannot see.
The social movements have eyes on them. They have the spotlight and the media is trying to give them the microphone. All they need to do is find a person or a handful of persons that can speak for them.