The common misrepresentations around the purpose of Black Lives Matter are where the disregard surrounding its actual meaning take root. These are aided by a right-wing campaign, which seeps through into libertarian and liberal camps of ideology as well.
Black Lives Matter, as has been expressed ad nauseam by people involved, does not mean that only black lives matter. Instead, the focus is on the disparity in justice as it gets doled out with respect to the prosecution of police who are involved in shooting deaths of civilians.
The process of clarifying the message will continue, especially as the dust settles from the tragic events of recent weeks and the Republican National Convention, currently underway, which has criticized the movement already and will undoubtedly continue to do so throughout the week.
Among the most popular of the criticisms of Black Lives Matter is the charge that it’s racist. But racism is a system of racial privilege. It stems from power, and, ultimately the abuse of that power to the benefit of one group over another. BLM exists to assert dignity and agency for people of color in the face of a biased criminal justice system.
As such, being the victims of historical bias in law enforcement, housing, politics, voting access, home ownership, etc., there’s an argument to be made that Blacks do not enjoy an enormous amount of power in the United States. Not in wealth. Not in justice. Not in benefit of the doubt. And, no, just because Barack Obama is the president, there’s not a lot of political power among the Black community, either.
Power, defined as one’s ability to act as their own agent of self-determination, is fleeting throughout American society, but the historical repression of Blacks draws significance to the term and concept of ‘Black Power’ because no other race was held in bondage to the industrial and institutional degree in which American slavery operated. As Stokely Carmichael put it:
“‘Black Power’ means black people coming together to form a political force and either electing representatives or forcing their representatives to speak their needs.”
Black Lives Matter is not racist. It expresses the need to draw attention to problems facing the Black community because they historically lack the power of self-determination through 400 years of advantages and privilege going in directions away from them.
Even after slavery, there was a century of Jim Crow. After Jim Crow, as Blacks were finally allowed legal protection to a seat at the dinner table of capitalism, the plates were already being cleared thanks to the evolution of neoliberal economics in the 1970s.
And if you struggle with how perceptions and ideas can persist through generations, as some love to point out by using the example of the quarter of Blacks who still live in poverty, without a hint of analysis as to the institutional reasons why, keep in mind that the exact mindset which reinforces the stereotype of poor Blacks who blame whitey generation after generation is also an idea that persists through generations. Congratulations, the method is the means.
All Lives and Blue Lives
Also missing the forest for the trees are the people who will enthusiastically rush to malign BLM with the very clever retort that All Lives Matter. And it’s total bullshit.
As expressed and constantly clarified by those within the movement, Black Lives Matter, as a slogan, is a direct response to the scourge of fatal police encounters in the United States which affect blacks up to 2.5 times more than whites.
Also expressed is the point that it is tragic that fatal police encounters claim up to and over 1000 Americans a year. Make no mistake, there’s something that needs to be done about that and until BLM came along, it wasn’t a mainstream issue. Credit the movement with bringing to light the alarming trends in police brutality and militarization — especially since 9-11 when the US decided to go apeshit in the name of national security and expand the powers of not only the federal government, but our local police departments as well in regards to domestic surveillance.
On the topic of this All Lives Matter nonsense, it doesn’t exist to bring the public’s attention to police killings. It exists explicitly as a response to shut down instances wherein BLM could be raising awareness.
That All Lives Matter is nonsense is also backed up by the fact that the response to shootings is spotty at best. Take the very recent case of Dylan Noble, a 19-year-old white California man who was shot by police in Fresno in June. A disturbing video if there was one (and there are plenty), and we saw BLM step up to the plate:
— Tyrus Ballard (@tyrus_ballard02) July 10, 2016
— Hannah aka Lesby (@YoungGawhd) July 10, 2016
— Icis (@PerfectImprfctn) July 10, 2016
#DylanNoble black lives matter will stand for you too. Your death was uncalled like the rest. Rest easy, honey.
— Anzyo Zikianda (@AnzyoZikianda) July 9, 2016
— نونيا (@NoniJuiceee) July 9, 2016
This could go on at length. And while there were All Lives Matter Tweets, go search #DylanNoble on Twitter for yourself and you’ll get the point.
There’s also the incessant gotcha-ism that accompanies the deaths of Black officers who die in the line of duty.
“Will Black Lives Matter protest his life?” they cry out.
The answer is: Maybe. But there’s no onus on the part of anyone affiliated with BLM to protest the loss of life of police. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t or can’t happen, as it certainly does. But the greater misnomer here is that BLM is not about the loss of just any Black life:It’s a specific and explicit reference to blacks who die at the hands of law enforcement.
And even if they did, you wouldn’t hear about it on the Blue Lives Matter Facebook page, Twitter feed, Fox News, Breitbart, The Blaze, New York Post, or the Rush Limbaugh Show.
Officer Jackson died in the line of duty and will have full accommodations made for his funeral as a fallen officer, and the person who shot him was killed by fellow officers — but even if his killer was taken alive, he would have stood before the entire weight and scrutiny of the criminal justice system. Sadly, Officer Jackson was very aware of his role in society, noting just days before he died that he is detested by one group of people when wearing his uniform and feared by another when he takes it off.
In the fatal shootings of Black suspects, officers rarely face indictment — even when they are recorded performing illegal chokeholds, or shoot children within two seconds of arriving on the scene. And an indictment isn’t a conviction, it just sends the case to trial.
Sure, people involved denounce the violence, some do mention officers killed when it happens, BLM stuck up for Dylan Noble who was white, they’re all human, but in reference to the exact purpose of BLM, there would be no need as justice would be served for the fallen officer.
That Black on Black Crime, Tho
The concept of Black-on-Black crime is misleading. From 1980 to 2008, which is the time of the study that proponents of this talking point love using, 93 percent of Blacks were killed by other blacks.
However, in the same span of time, 84 percent of white murders were committed by other whites. Rates of intraracial violence are always high.
We all tend to live near and interact more with people who look like us. It’s how class and race have been both intentionally and consequently shaped throughout US history, and it’s also reflected in violent crime.
I See Your Point, But My Logical Fallacy Disagrees
BLM’s detractors revel in using numbers out of context, like the amount of whites killed by police, which is higher than the total amount of Blacks killed. Except, that should be expected as whites comprise 64 percent of the population and Blacks only 12 percent. If 300 whites die resulting from fatal police encounters, and 200 Blacks die, then the rate will be higher for Blacks — which is the exact issue at hand that Black Lives Matter is trying to point out.
Taking into account the accusations of racism which fail to match the criteria required for something to be accurately called racist, and the elements within the All Lives, Blue Lives and “Black-on-Black” rhetoric which try to prove the same point by avoiding the actual message behind Black Lives Matter, and you’ve got a counter-argument to the movement which is rooted directly in a strawman fallacy.
Black Lives Matter is about the disparity in justice in the aftermath of fatal police killings of Black Americans. It has shone a light on an epidemic in American society that has gone relatively unnoticed in the mainstream and it is also being used as a stepping stone into the discussion on police militarization and mass incarceration. It is changing the conversation and that’s why it is more important than logical fallacies continually used to debase it.