Lawrence W. Rodgers
Since the civil rights movement, there has been a major thrust within social justice movements to change the hearts of the dominant culture with the hope of those changed hearts changing the environment. It is time to let go of the language of changing hearts and, instead, embrace a language of organizing power for the sake of those who have been left out of the system.
The University of Missouri president’s recent resignation is a case study demonstrating what happens when an economic engine (the football team) refuses to proceed unless change happens. Social justice movements must evolve to embrace this reality.
Capitalism has no conscience; it has no face, and the institutions it creates take on a mind of their own, and, even if individuals inside these institutions seek to be compassionate, they face strong resistance because of the never-ending pursuit of the bottom line by the institution itself. The powerful will never give up power without provocation.
The University of Missouri football team tapped into the Achilles’ heel of the capitalistic institution by stopping one of its economic engines until its demands were meet. Ultimately, the team’s demands might be forgotten, but what should be remembered is its means of operation.
Organizing is a people power. For people who have no money, they still have their bodies. We as humans have the natural right to say no, but the most powerful no is the collective no. The institution can easily replace an individual, but it is much more difficult to replace a critical mass of people.
Let us move on from trying to change hearts but rather to improve the condition of those who are marginalized and disinherited.
Lawrence W. Rodgers is the pastor of Baltimore’s West Side Church of Christ. He specializes in social justice ministry and he is a mDiv. candidate at Howard University School of Divinity in Washington D.C.