The tagline for Arsenal For Democracy is “a new generation in democratic leadership.” Not the “next” generation, which would imply leadership later, but the “new” generation — the one that is already here.
I’ve been rattling the bars of the cage here and there for the past four years, as I’ve gotten increasingly tired of being told by grindingly-slow-moving (and often unrepresentative) “movement” leaders to “wait your turn” and the like, while they continually pre-compromise and reach for nowhere close to the stars.
Unsurprisingly, I’m 100% on board for my fellow young people taking charge of a political movement the way we’ve seen young people seizing the reins of the new wave of civil rights action after Ferguson — even if they have to physically grab the microphone from people who refuse to accept that their own time (and credibility) to lead has passed. I stand behind young leaders — people like Johnetta Elzie and DeRay Mckesson and so many others — in these efforts, on a range of issues.
I’m not saying there’s no value to folks with more experience, but sometimes that means advising rather than insisting on leading. Why? We need young people leading movements for change because we haven’t yet been defeated by “The Way Things Are” and because we aren’t resting on old wins. We’re still able to re-imagine what is possible and achievable and to try to get farther than those who came before us. We need to move past the paradigms of “Once Upon A Time We Took A Step Forward” & “Why can’t you just be grateful you got one thing a while ago?”
We need to stop saying “Why can’t you ever be happy with what we’ve achieved?” and listen when people say “I can’t accept partial-progress.” Not because they’re picky or overly demanding but because their lives depend on not accepting half-measures that still leave them in danger.
Compromise has its place but it’s not the end goal. And it’s ok to point out what else needs to be fixed. How else would more get done? Not everyone who is unhappy with past compromises and past steps forward is a mean complainer. Most are just ambitious for more.