Because of the escalation of violence against unarmed Black people during this pandemic, many major cities in the United States are currently being set upon by angry constituents. Realistically, there has been alarm among many people, especially in Texas, where a state of emergency has been declared; curfews have been put in place in various other cities and states. The White House was so unsettled by the unrest that Antifa–a leaderless organization that has branches across the country–has been declared a terrorist organization. MLK stated, “A riot is the language of the unheard,” and many people have been lamenting the lack of “leadership” among the protesters, despite the word “unheard” in the quote. Instead, it is prudent to determine whether one should be looking for leadership in a world full of people who have been taught to usurp the spotlight.
First of all, everyone involved in senseless violence is not looking for external validation or attention. Christian Cooper, an avid birdwatcher in the city of New York, was walking in Central Park and looking for birds. When he came across Amy Cooper, he had every intention of not engaging with her beyond telling her to leash her dog. She refused, attempted to escalate the situation to involve the police, and was only prevented from publicly executing a Black man for speaking to her because Christian Cooper was filming the entire incident. Had Amy Cooper leashed her dog, no one would have ever heard about the incident; had she not called the police, there would have been no incident. Unfortunately, because of her failure to take responsibility for her actions, Christian Cooper is now being shoved into the spotlight and kept there. Not all survivors want to be a part of the media deluge, and not everyone wants the healing process to be on display for public consumption.
Moreover, looking for leaders encourages the perspective that everyone who claims any identity is looking to be seen as part of a group, instead of as an individual. When any Black or brown person commits a crime, there is a propensity for everyone to look at all Black and brown people as if they, too, committed a crime. Likewise, any successful Black or brown person is seen as a barometer for all other Black or brown people. If those accepted by the dominant narrative–most frequently White–are allowed to be seen as individuals, then everyone needs to be seen as an individual. Otherwise, people begin to feel entitled to validation that they are “one of the good ones,” when so many people are trying to be accepted as a “one.”
Leadership also implies hierarchy, and hierarchy is how the dominant narrative is sustained. The upper echelons continue to believe that they are the best and the brightest, and that mentality is only sustained because of an unwritten social contract dependent upon their resources. To avoid the masses, the upper echelons demand that the downtrodden choose one representative under all circumstances. Choosing a representative of the global majority does two things, the first being the preservation of a hierarchy that creates infighting and quests for an imaginary power; corruption becomes inevitable. Second, demanding a “leader” removes the intimacy and accountability of dealing with people in direct proximity; in other words, it is easier to look for the next MLK than it is to accept responsibility for misbehavior with an individual in one’s everyday life. Distance always absolves people of injustice, so the only cure for injustice is localization.
To combat injustice and move society in the right direction, people need to understand that the goal of any rebellion and/or unrest is change, pure and simple. No one should look to be the “leader” because then, the onus for change is only on one person or group, and every injustice known to the human race has different and varied origins. Also, activist leaders have a consistent habit of being murdered by people who oppose their messages. The idea of a leader removes the need for self awareness, but self-awareness is the only way society will regain personal accountability and truly establish justice. Fear drove hateful and thoughtless acts that put everyone in danger and pushed an already tense nation over the edge, but having a leader does not change what people discovered about themselves and the world around them during this era.