I love the many clever memes that are circulated on social media. One of my favorites reads, “I don’t have a short attention span, I just…oh look, a kitty!” What I like about that meme is that it so succinctly captures the American society’s lack of an appetite for staying with an issue of any depth. Instead we have become masters of the “flavor of the day.” What is not amusing about our quickly distracted populace is the fact that serious issues only hold our attention for a little while.
For weeks we focused on Mike Brown, Jr. and the seeming widespread police abuse in cities and sections of cities serving poor, Black communities. Folks marched, held rallies and protests, made speeches, and demonstrated in the community. That’s exactly what we did when Trayvon Martin was killed and then, we figuratively said, “Oh look…a kitty.” Distractions are inevitable in a world filled with problems. There are wars in Afghanistan, Gaza, and the Ukraine. There is a deadly Ebola virus attacking the people of 3-4 west African nations. We have no coherent immigration policy and desperate parents are allowing their children to travel dangerous routes through Central America and Mexico to get to the US.creating a challenge of attempting to shelter thousands of unaccompanied minors. Any one of these issues is worthy of our attention and there is certainly nothing wrong with being preoccupied with any of them.
However, when I say, “Oh look…a kitty” I am referring to the way frivolous, insignificant things cause us to take our eyes off real issues. Someone organizing around police brutality in Ferguson, MO can certainly also be concerned with immigrant rights or the Ebola crisis. Unfortunately, what is actually capturing our attention is the fact that celebrities have had their nude photos leaked from a cloud or Beyonce may be divorcing Jay-Z, or Nick Cannon IS divorcing Mariah Carey, or it’s football season and it’s time to organize our fantasy teams, or President Obama wore a tan suit.
The issues plaguing our communities should be making us SO angry that we cannot take our eyes off the prize. We have to stay focused on those things that are threatening the very fabric of our community life. We cannot allow young people like Mike Brown, Jr., Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, and Renisha McBride to be passing fancies in our activism. Whether we are a part of longstanding organizations like the NAACP, Urban League, PUSH, The National Action Network or service organizations like the Divine 9, The Links, or 100 Black Men. or ad hoc coalitions that emerge in the midst of these tragedies, we HAVE to stay focused. Those who work against us are counting on us to grow weary, lose momentum, and lose our focus. They cannot wait to make us turn our heads and say, “Oh look…a kitty!” What do you think?
Stay Black & Smart!