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What Cara Jennings and Black Lives Matter Protesters Don’t Get

| April 11, 2016

What Cara Jennings and Black Lives Matter Protesters Don't Get

All over but the shouting: Cara Jennings and Rick Scott exchange coffee beans. (YouTube)

By Catherine Durkin Robinson

Last week, Cara Jennings sat in Starbucks and berated Gov. Rick Scott when he arrived to purchase a cup of coffee.

She called him an asshole and yelled about her limited health-care options. Black Lives Matter activists did something similar at a rally where Bill Clinton spoke. They screamed about a bill Clinton passed in the 1990s, angry it led to mass incarceration of minorities for non-violent crimes.


Millions have seen videos of these events.

Cue up the typical Jezebel, Mother Jones pro-pieces and the opposing but ever-reliable conservative hate machine. Liberals love Jennings; conservatives defend Scott. Moderate liberals love the Clintons while those more to the left support BLM.

Meanwhile, those of us in the trenches continue to shake our heads. Both Jennings and the BLM protesters had salient points and a rare opportunity to raise awareness.

Both Jennings and the BLM protesters failed. Miserably.

My 16-year-old sons know if they yell or call names during an argument or debate, they’ve lost. It’s over. Pack it up and go home.

That rule applies to everyone, but unlike teenagers or students who make such mistakes, when activists publicly shout or resort to ad hominem attacks, they not only lose, they make the rest of us look bad.

Losing your shit on-camera diminishes you and those who share your concerns.

The fact that Jennings was justifiably upset about being denied health care and the BLM folks were justifiably critical of the Clinton crime bill does not register. Media reports do not focus on the merits of any policy discussion and legitimate concerns get limited coverage.

What gets coverage instead? Tactics.

When methods overshadow the message, none of us win.

What is the goal of an activist? As a 25-year veteran, for most of my career the goal has and continues to be multi-fold. Successful advocates raise awareness, generate understanding and mobilize grassroots support. The ultimate goal: policy change.

It’s a proven formula. It’s how we win.

context floridaToo many activists today seem to have no such goals. They do not raise awareness. Instead, they leave opponents bitter, defensive and frustrated. A negative experience with an adversary doesn’t encourage anyone to reconsider their point of view. Apathy or anger rules the day.

Rather than generate understanding, loudmouth advocates alienate and cement already thickening opposition to their cause.

Mobilizing grassroots support isn’t even a remote possibility. If anything, tantrums motivate like-minded people to literally lift one finger in support. A “retweet” or “like” is action enough.

And please, a change in policy? Are you kidding? Screaming in Starbucks or at a popular ex-president — who, by the way, is on your side — does not lead to any substantive change.

Anyone familiar with Facebook cannot be surprised. That’s our culture now. People post diatribes from one narrow point of view or experience and, if someone dares to interject, point out the other side to an argument, or attempt meaningful dialogue, they are shouted down, unfriended, blocked. This trend is shifting from computers to college campuses, rallies and coffee shops.

If the goal is to get a video to go viral or get more publicity for your “brand” — congratulations. Jezebel writers know your name! Woo Hoo!

Meanwhile, you’re making it more difficult for those of us who get off our asses, those of us who put down the cleverly worded signs and think beyond incendiary sound bites to actually form consensus and get things done.

Liberals who applaud Jennings don’t stop to wonder why they’re approving tactics they’d surely despise if roles were reversed. These same pundits would be mortified if Hillary went into a coffee shop and someone called her a bitch.

Why is one OK and the other not?

Because critical thinking is as outdated as self-awareness.

Jennings requested a conversation with Scott, but he’s not going to sit down and talk to someone more interested in shouting than listening. Clinton apologized, but the video shows he responded with facts, never once inciting the crowd to violence, and afforded his protesters more respect than they displayed. More respect than they deserved.

If you believe your greatest contribution to the complex world of social justice advocacy is to make a fool of yourself, please stop being on our side. Progressive ideals and values are strong, they don’t need to be shouted or paired with epitaphs to pack a punch. Our jobs are already challenging, and you are making them worse.

But enjoy those Facebook likes.

catherine-durkin-robinsonCatherine Durkin Robinson’s award-winning columns have appeared in The Tampa Times, The Tampa Tribune, and Creative Loafing as well as several national magazines and newspapers. She is a mom, writer, advocate, political organizer, and runner. Reach her by email here.

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13 Responses for “What Cara Jennings and Black Lives Matter Protesters Don’t Get”

  1. anonymous says:

    I agree whole heartedly with this entire article.

  2. billy bob says:

    What most of these “liberals” don’t know is that their lovely BLM movement is actually funded by the likes of communists and zionists such as the likes of George Soros, but most just believe the Kool-Aid that he’s some sort of freedom loving philanthropist. Wake up.

  3. r&r says:

    Does it matter that most crime such as murder is comitted by blacks?

  4. Brad W says:

    Great piece. The part for me that speaks volumes to so much of the issue with public debtae today is “Too many activists today seem to have no such goals. They do not raise awareness. Instead, they leave opponents bitter, defensive and frustrated. A negative experience with an adversary doesn’t encourage anyone to reconsider their point of view. Apathy or anger rules the day. Rather than generate understanding, loudmouth advocates alienate and cement already thickening opposition to their cause.”

    It’s not about the “cause”, it’s about attention to the individual. When I saw the video of the Rick Scott incident, all I could think is does this person really think this her behavior was appropriate? She could have easily stood up and walked over to express her opinion in a mature manner. Instead she chooses to stay in her seat and scream at someone across the business. For what? Personal attention and not for anything else.

  5. Sherry says:

    OK. . . there are obviously at least TWO sides to this whole story! Read the article entitled “rick Scott’s Shout Show” and view the WHOLE video, in context, before rushing to the usual all to quick judgement! Rick Scott, as it turns out, made a fool of himself in that encounter!

    Consider the possibility that the protester had a legitimate beef. . . Rick Scott had the audacity to assume she was one of the “TAKERS”. You know, the much maligned class of people as labeled by many in the Republican party.

    Also put this whole encounter in the context of a movement of repressed people living and working in the richest country in the world. Massive numbers of people of color HAVE put forth their pleas in modest and civil way for EQUAL OPPORTUNITY and EQUAL JUSTICE under our laws for the past 50 plus years. The resistance has been fierce and advances sparse. Perhaps, in the face of their brothers being murdered by police, and the Rick Scotts of this world treating them lik,e second class citizens, their patience is growing thin.. Perhaps they are sick of being required to drink their political “Kool Aid” from the “Negros only” fountain.

  6. Anita says:

    What Cara Jennings and BLM DO understand is that we’ve marched, had hoses and dogs tuned on us; done “Kumbaya” to death and are now up to the four millionth stanza of “We shall overcome” and all it took was one semi-black American being elected President to re-open wounds we hoped had finally closed. So if Ms. Jennings and BLM’s in-your-face tactics offend, sorry, but we’ve found begging doesn’t work.The BLM movement is a specific response to the casual killings of unarmed black Americans at the hands of white American law enforcement and done with seeming impunity and/or minimal penalty. The school to prison pipeline was but the first step in perpetuating institutionalized contempt for an entire ethnic group and judicial excesses are its extension (and Bill Clinton knew this when he signed that law). Yes, we are angry enough to get in Gov. Scott’s face. Why aren’t you?

  7. chopshop says:

    black lives matter is just another black racist group supported by welfare and food stamp cards. another 6 months and trump will take care of the mess.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Both extremes of the political spectrum are equally disagreeable for the same reasons. They are both intolerant and incapable of hearing any other point of views besides their own. They see the world in a “black-or-white/angel vs. monster” way. It appears that the concept of compromise is anathema to them. And the rest of us taking sides isn’t helpful either.

  9. woodchuck says:

    Half of the so called “killings unarmed black americans” could have avoided if they would COMPLY.IF they were innocent or guilty.It all works out in the end it’s that easy.

  10. Geezer says:

    RE: Anonymous

    Exactly…..
    Extremism doesn’t allow for rational discussion, and more importantly: equitable solutions.
    This has been going on since time immemorial, and will end when humanity destroys itself.

    Of course, by then it won’t matter anymore.

  11. Dave says:

    The Trouble with all of this, When a black man kills another person of color why not protest that ALL lives matter regardless of color, stop the senseless endless violence throughout this country. If a movement can do that then I’m all for it. In this country according to DOJ 2015 statistics, 42.9 % of all crimes are committed by Whites, and 22.4% are committed by blacks. Lower those statistics and maybe we can all just get along.

  12. r&r says:

    I don’t know where you got those stats Dave? Maybe they were reversed..

  13. anonymous says:

    Cant we all just get along? It would make for much happier place.

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