From Where We Are

USC professor gives her perspective on civil unrest in the U.S.

Professor Miki Turner says young activists should strategize.

Since George Floyd’s murder in May, there have been widespread protests against police violence internationally and in the U-S. The verdict over the death of Breonna Taylor reinvigorated protestors after none of the officers were charged with Taylor’s death. Katie Clark spoke with Assistant Professor of Professional Practice Miki Turner about how today’s civil rights protests build on the great social justice movement of the 1960′s.

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I think the difference between now and then is that people back then had an end goal. They had a strategic plan and I don’t see that so much today, particularly because of what’s happening in the midst of these protests with some of the violence and the looting and stuff, which is not part of the movement.

I think that there just needs to be better strategies when it comes to these protests and in determining a way in which they’re going to affect change

I feel funny saying this, but I don’t think anything has changed that much since Black Lives Matter was incorporated. I thought we had the low point with George Floyd, but now Toronto is looking better and better. There’s not much more of this I can take, that anyone in my generation can take because we’ve lived through this before and this level of regression is going to result in a plethora of mental health problems. I can guarantee you that. For everybody.

There forever has been two different laws for people who look like me and for people who don’t look like me. This is supposed to be one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I’m still waiting on that. I’ve always known that history repeats itself, but I never thought we would go back here. I was born in a time when Jim Crow was in a shallow grave. It appears that he’s up and dancing now. Again, we’re not talking about segregation or seats on the bus or anything like that, but we’re talking about laws that don’t protect us.

If you were to give young people, young activists specifically, people who organize the protests, some advice?

Well, here’s the thing about protests that people tend to forget. America was founded on protests, on violent protests. You know, when you look at the Revolutionary War, when you look at when the people came over from England. People act like this is like new, but Americans have been engaging in violent protests since time began.

So I would say take a beat. Come up with a plan. Come up with a strategy. Understand how government works. Understand how the political climate in this country is now working and come up with ways to diffuse it.

We’ve even gone through a little bit of this at USC since all of this started with the George Floyd murder and then the outcry of the black student population against the microaggressions and the macro aggressions and the discrimination that some of them have felt throughout their tenure at SC. So to them, I also say come up with a plan because yes, there is systemic racism in every American institution of higher learning. It is not unique to USC.