The Black Lives Matter movement has had significant wins in recent months. Municipalities have removed statues of racists, corporations have changed branding that reinforced racial stereotypes, schools have cut ties with police forces and cities have reduced police funding.
But too often, politicians, celebrities and community leaders who applaud the protesters for these victories are quick to follow up by asserting, like Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, that voting “would be the most effective response, the deepest payback” for George Floyd’s death — or that there is “no greater form of protest” than voting, as Lisa Deeley, chair of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, put it.
I’ve led movements for most of my adult life and have heard similar misguided refrains far too many times. The truth is voting is an honorable act that many movements use as a tactic. But the popular message that it’s the only real source of power misleads the public about how social change happens and stifles the energy required to bring about the change we need.
Instead of suggesting that participation in movements is inferior to voting, people with influence should educate themselves and the public about the often hidden role of social movements in achieving change in this country. [Continue reading…]