I attended the “We Want Revolution” talk from Cathy J. Cohen, Ph.D., sponsored by the University of San Diego. While she was speaking, her primary focus was not just analyzing racial demographics views but also generational perspectives. Dr. Cathy Cohen is a political science professor at the University of Chicago. She has had administrative positions within the University of Chicago as a chair of the political science department and the director for the study of race. She has also authored two books titled, (University of Chicago Press), Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford University Press), and has been a co-editor on books as well. Her current research focuses on the Ford Foundation’s various surveys regarding social views within racial demographics.
During her talk, she spoke heavily on Millenials and Generation Z. This is due to both of these generations growing up in an era such that they can see so much information and actions happening in real-time. Alongside the struggles that both of these generations have to face. Primarily Millennials who are now in a worse position than their parents. They are receiving less return on their time and efforts than their parents. She presented data such that Millennials would be less likely to become homeowners, and their pursuit of education is beneficial. Dr. Cohen describes this as a “gig economy” such that these individuals are taking jobs that do not come with benefits just to make a living compared to their predecessors.
Introducing the overarching theme of Dr. Cohen’s talk is the duality of both vulnerability and alienation that many African Americans and their entire generation face. On the other hand, Generation Z has experienced the hardships of racial battles and evolution similar to their predecessors of, Millennials. Due to the progression of technology, on their cellular devices, tablets, laptops, and other sources, in real-time, these two generations African American population see the executions and murders of individuals near their age as they are roaming the American society. These individuals also witness struggles over immigration and the caging and separation of families, LGBTQ+ rights, and recognition of trans and non-gender-conforming individuals.
Dr. Cohen posed a question to the audience in response to the various data that she had presented from the racial groups within these generations. Different data displayed African American, Asian, Latinx, and white points of view on a range of topics, from police brutality to their trust in the government within the United States notably, the question of police brutality towards African Americans and other people of Color soured during 2020. The correlation of which can be seen in the execution of George Floyd. These generations had various views on how they would like steps towards change for these topics, like the police brutality mentioned earlier. In response to how they would like to see combating these topics, African Americans selected the option of wanting a revolution—questioning the definition of revolution and what these generations of African American people want. The revolution is not something of a force. The revolution is a dramatic and wide-reaching change in how something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it. These themes are significant to our understanding of African American history because, yes, there is the word history referencing the past; however, the world must look at history to understand better the direction we must go. To find this direction, some of the notable historical events that will precede this will be the organization of Black support groups and the fugitive slave act.
The Black Panther party is various other organizations of the 20th century that have shaped the views for and on Blacks at the time. Emerging from the Black Power movement, this organization had an unapologetic reality on which it acted. Their rights to armaments they expressed openly because that was their constitutional right. However, in response to this, their various leaders and figureheads would be jailed by law enforcement—their objective being revolution based on black nationalism, socialism, and anti-police brutality. But as a whole, based upon the human rights violations against African Americans, the foundation of their armament practices (Roman P.13). The Black Panthers and many different organizations had various programs that they enacted, “Late in 1969, the Panthers began what they called ‘survival programs.’ Across the country, chapters established breakfast programs for children, health clinics, clothing drives, and schools. In doing so, they reconnected with local churches, where they often conducted their community service programs” (Freedom on My Mind, E-Book P. 965). Their tactics for revolution, beliefs, and programs are still seen today. Absent public display of weapons in a standoffish attitude with police. Some organizations provide these benefits to African Americans, and there are also government organizations that provide these services nondiscriminatory to African Americans. Still, in some cases, they are the majority that receive them. The differences between programs then vs. now are on the basis these are not the topics that are spread heavily in the news. What is seen today is the negative and brutal instances of policing, murder, and death.
Policing had to start somewhere within a nation. Initially, growing up, children think that policing is founded upon some individuals wanting to protect and serve their communities—officers of peace and justice who wish to be upstanders within their community and prevent heinous crimes. Depending on the education and school district you are within in this country, you will learn a different truth about policing. The Fugitive Slave Act and its updates started this spiral of brutality. The hunting and return of enslaved Blacks and the forceful enslavement of those who were free similar to the public executions of African Americans in our current time, sprouted support from more than just Blacks, “After the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, however, northern white support for the underground railroad grew, and vigilance committees became increasingly interracial. They expanded the networks of cellars, attics, church basements, and other safe spaces where fugitives could take refuge before being shepherded to freedom, often in Canada” (Freedom on My Mind, E-Book P. 433). The blatant misuse and the lies used to use the Fugitive Slave Act to make money pushed white morals even more. It eventually led them to participate more in the underground railroad and take more steps to aid the escape of the enslaved African Americans. These actions and individualism are the modern African American communities of fugitive slave officers. On every cell phone in this era, at the touch of a fingertip, see another officer committing heinous actions, sparking revolutionary talk even to defund police organizations. Creating a divide in the nation with acronyms like ACAB, standing for All Cops Are Bad, and stances like All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.
As an African American myself, I can not speak for the entire African American population. Just how similarly, the data results previously mentioned during Dr. Cohen’s talk do not display the emotions of millions of individuals within this country. However, just like defining what a revolution is to an individual, the step in the right direction is also self-defining. Some individuals chose to seed chaos and create more violence. The other side to that is it will still have the same effects as these public executions for the sake of my kin of Generation Z and our predecessors of Millenials; we are still going to swipe through our phones and various other devices and see the same expressions and battle that we have seen for years. Yes, it can cause more dialogue for change but at the cost of draining an individual. Only so much violence can be seen in one day. On the other hand, only so much peaceful protest can be done until that form of revolution makes others fed up.
A dramatic and wide-reaching change in how our society works against fundamental human rights needs to happen. The modern-day lynchings, hate crimes, and other occurrences against people of Color and African Americans spark this need for a revolution. These occurrences won’t be stopping, and the only hope is for them to slow down. Violent or peaceful, the only thing for sure is the revolution will not be televised.