There will be tens of thousands of people today, inspired by the End It Movement, who will wear a red ‘X” on their hands to symbolize a commitment to end slavery.
Philosopher and rhetorician Kenneth Burke wrote extensively on the power of symbolism. He believed that people naturally respond to symbolism in their quest for identification and that it is a powerful means of “inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols.”
Throughout history symbolism has been used to inspire and galvanize social movements. Symbols have even helped unite people within a movement who have differing philosophies, approaches and agendas for a common good. Sometimes words aren’t even necessary. The symbols above speak volumes in their imagery, history and the feelings they provoke.
At the end of the day, these symbols didn’t bring about any meaningful change. But the people behind them did. A symbol doesn’t change anything. People do. And if a symbol can help “induce cooperation” and inspire more people to the fight… then I’m in.
So… a red ‘X’ won’t end slavery. But the people who wear it might.