I continue to hold out more hope for movements like Occupy and Black Lives Matter than I do for electoral politics.
So I was delighted to read this, in Truthout (Confounding Brunch), even though I completely missed the reports from when this happened a few months back:
On the first weekend of 2015, activists in New York and Oakland devised a novel target for the “Black Lives Matter” movement: brunch. Entering restaurants in affluent neighborhoods, they read the names of black civilians killed by police, to the visible discomfort of the predominantly white patrons who had expected nothing more than a Bloody Mary and an overpriced eggs Benedict.
Brunch patrons and their self-appointed media defenders played their assigned roles, expressing outrage at their momentary inconvenience in ways that made them look clueless, callous, or downright absurd. Social media erupted with often rascist vitriol. As one Baltimore Black Brunch organizer told MSNBC, “People acted like it was the worst thing that happened to them.” What made the protest action so powerful, and so irresistible to the curators of viral media, was the juxtaposition of the outrage of stolen Black lives with the perceived triviality – and whiteness – of brunch.
Here’s why reading that story makes this eternal pessimist just a little more optimistic:
One of the books I most enjoyed over the past few years was Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. The book is chock full of vignettes from Alinsky about using civil disobedience to move opinion and effect change. This “brunch strategy” of Black Lives Matter reminded me of a strategy where Alinsky and others attended theatre performances with cheese and other malodorous substances tucked in their hair, in order to focus attention on an issue.
We need more of this. A lot more.
There won’t be real change in America until the status quo becomes too uncomfortable. And, based on the description in Truthout, things did get uncomfortable at Sunday brunch a few months back. Good on Black Lives Matter for making it so.