What's different about this movement against police brutality

June 19, 2020 - Dr. Carl Taylor

This column ran in the Detroit Free Press on June 14, 2020.

While observing recent protests, a voice explained to me, "This is the new world order." It was a young denizen from the third city, an underground culture invisible to the mainstream. Is this the world order that I had heard of? Conspiracies and all, storm troopers, dictators, and worse. The end of democracy.

Well, not so fast. I have seen a transformation of a new order. The new order is conceptually a multicultural moment. It has has been a spontaneous season for sure. The explosion was the brutal death of George Floyd in Minnesota. The response began with all types of people marching in protest of the long-standing dismal injustice of African Americans. Another African American man killed by the police in America. The protests launched in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, and more. All involved a new team that included multicultural and multinational faces to protest the injustice and inhumanity.

Certainly, the black community is in the eye of the moment. This protest is not the traditional vehicle of the civil rights movement. This new hybrid is a massive multicultural gathering. Unlike any other time in history, this collective body represents those who have not always been included. Feminists, seniors, LGBTQ, faith-based institutions, students of all ages, unions, public servants, government workers, unemployed, musicians, actors, poor, rich and more.

The key in this powerful assembly is the technology. The local, state and national protests are connected by cellphones. The capability to document and share images of this historical moment has made the iPhone a weapon. The advanced technology provides a new, fast, powerful means to bypass political interference. The black plea has been heard by many different allies. Have no doubt, this presentation of public outcry flexes a might of a deeply diverse America.

Suddenly, America today finds itself acknowledging a history rarely discussed. The power of technology coupled with a young 21st-century youth culture does not carry the old-school ways. The larger picture shows the black plea for justice. It also shows how a new order of social media is infused with the traditional means of better understanding of world citizenship. The new order is including many. In particular, young and old folks. At this moment, a new order with a very powerful message that has transcended the traditional institutions. I think the iconic Langston Hughes poem “Let America Be America Again” is fitting.

The new order is not the menacing New World Order. ...

Carl Taylor is a professor of sociology and ethnographer at Michigan State University. His field research focuses on reducing violence among American youths.