As much as I can appreciate the power of social media and its ability to inform and rally people across the globe around a common cause—as was the case for the uprising in Egypt and the Occupy Wall Street movement—I have my doubts about its lasting impact. As my colleague Alfred Edmond, Jr. pointed out several months ago when discussing “Why Twitter Couldn’t Save Troy Davis”, we have a generation of passive activists. At 35, I may be too young to recall the sit-ins and marches of the Civil Rights movement, but the rabble-rousers of that era pushed the boundaries of their civil liberties not buttons on a Smartphone or computer. Many of today’s bandwagon revolutionists have little real action in their activism. They simply spot a new trend and sign an online petition here and send an angry tweet there, but the revolution will not be RT. Way too often people feel their passive activism is enough to make a difference. While the sentiment of a tweet is appreciated, a cheerleader can’t put points on the board. Only those who get off the sidelines and into the game can.
While it’s easy for some to move on to the “next big news story,” others don’t have that luxury. Take Nicole Paultre Bell, for example. Her fiancé Sean Bell was shot and killed by undercover cops in a hail of 50 shots on the morning before their wedding back in 2006. The incident drew national headlines and prompted countless protests against excessive police force, but as time went on and the case ended in 2008 with the acquittal of all three accused officers, the general public eventually moved on to the “next big news story of the moment.” Paultre Bell, however, remained diligent in her quest for justice. Earlier this month two of the involved officers, as well as their on-scene supervisor, were forced to resign, while Det. Gescard Isnora, who fired the first shot at Bell and his friends, was officially relieved of duty.
Six years, that’s how long it took for the Bell family to get to this point in their fight for justice. How many of us truly have the patience, willpower and dedication to commit themselves to reach the day where there’s justice for Trayvon Martin? In the event that George Zimmerman is never charged for the death of Trayvon or is charged but found innocent; how many of us can truly say that we’d continue to devote time and energy to his case when the calendar turns to 2018? If the part-time movements behind martyrs of the moment like Troy Davis and Ramarley Graham are any indication then I’d wager not many.
If you disagree with my pessimist view on how the Trayvon incident will play out, then I deplore you to prove me wrong. If you aren’t doing your part to rally behind just causes, then start. If you are, then continue doing so not just for the moment but long after the front-page headlines disappear. For now, I’ll just continue to wait for the day where there’s justice for Trayvon Martin or the day you all forget about the 17-year-old and move on to the next big news story of the moment.