Why Are African-American Organizations So Influential in the US?

After the recent Las Vegas shooting, many American media outlets reported it as the most serious shooting incident in American history, but others have disagreed, claiming that this view seems to show white supremacy. Back in 1873 and 1917, there were massacres of black Americans incited by whites, with victims in the hundreds. The “Black Lives Matter” organization believes that this is another indication that white mainstream society does not value black American lives.

This is just one example. If you watch American politics, it is not hard to see the strong mobilization by African-American organizations. African-American groups are often vocal, often organize large-scale protests and are experienced in protecting their interests.

While America has often been called a cultural melting pot, it has never lacked racial conflict. After Trump became president, the problem became worse. While all minority groups are unfairly treated, when confronted with racial crises, African-American organizations are better at coming forward and fighting for their rights. What has created the high-level of mobilization and proactiveness among African-American organizations?

First, there is a long history of African-Americans fighting for equal rights in America. From the abolition of slavery to various civil rights actions, African-American organizations have never been absent from the equal rights movement in the U.S., and sometimes have played a leadership role in the revolution.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is at the core of the confidence of many African-American organizations’ participation in and guiding of political movements. A tradition of protests, marches, speeches and being vocal has made African-American organizations highly value equal rights, and has maintained their awareness of racist behavior. Of course, right-wing groups are critical of such actions, believing these African-American organizations have used political correctness to enjoy excessively beneficial policies, such as the preferential admittance of African-American students to colleges and universities.  

Whenever I talk about political movements by African-American organizations with my American friends, they talk about their guilt from the “original sin” of slavery. These friends of mine tend to support left-wing parties, and are more sympathetic toward the civil rights movement. In their view, white American society committed “original sin” toward African-Americans, and the prosperity and wealth whites enjoy is built upon the slavery system.

My left-wing American friends identify with the lack of rights throughout American history; they believe African-Americans should enjoy more preferential treatment to make up for the mistakes white Americans have previously made. The sympathy and support from these whites have earned more support for African-American organizations; this is also why we could often see white participants in political movements protecting the rights of African-Americans.

In addition, famous African-Americans from Hollywood or professional sports, such as movie stars, singers and athletes, also exert enormous influence via social media. Any small-scale action by African-American organizations, even individual actions, are quickly disseminated by these celebrities’ social media accounts and help accelerate the power and promotion of these African-American organizations in the internet age.

The author is a former American-based employee of a Chinese organization.

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