The “Black Lives Matter” movement has sort of been hovering out there, an amorphous thing that no one seems entirely comfortable with.
Not Republican presidential candidates, certainly (some less than others). But not their Democratic counterparts, either.
And our governor is pretty adamant in her disapproval.
Conservatives are uncomfortable with it, and some liberals seem dismissive:
Black Lives Matter demands “freedom for Black bodies, justice for Black lives, safety for Black communities, and rights for Black people,” but it will have to overcome skepticism from fellow progressives to create lasting political change.
Self-identifying members of the left are comparing the movement to Occupy Wall Street, which stormed the American political discourse in 2011, but in 2015 feels like a historical relic.
Adolph Reed, a professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s political science department, told IJReview on August 12 that he had:
“been joking with some friends in the last few days we should call it Blackupy because it is the same kind of thing.”
Of course, I’m taking IJ’s word for it that this Prof. Reed is a liberal. I don’t know.
But I know the Democratic Party has an uneasy relationship with it. The party has been sticking up for it, and today I got a DP release drawing attention to a NYT editorial defending the movement:
The Republican Party and its acolytes in the news media are trying to demonize the protest movement that has sprung up in response to the all-too-common police killings of unarmed African-Americans across the country. The intent of the campaign — evident in comments by politicians likeGov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina,Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin andSenator Rand Paul of Kentucky — is to cast the phrase “Black Lives Matter” as an inflammatory or even hateful anti-white expression that has no legitimate place in a civil rights campaign….
The “Black Lives Matter” movement focuses on the fact that black citizens have long been far more likely than whites to die at the hands of the police, and is of a piece with this history. Demonstrators who chant the phrase are making the same declaration that voting rights and civil rights activists made a half-century ago. They are not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. They are underlining an indisputable fact — that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered, and have been discounted and devalued. People who are unacquainted with this history are understandably uncomfortable with the language of the movement. But politicians who know better and seek to strip this issue of its racial content and context are acting in bad faith. They are trying to cover up an unpleasant truth and asking the country to collude with them.
But the movement itself resists efforts by the liberal establishment to defend it:
The following is a statement is response to the Democratic National Committee resolution expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and can be attributed to the Black Lives Matter Network, including our 26 chapters nationwide.
“A resolution signaling the Democratic National Committee’s endorsement that Black lives matter, in no way implies an endorsement of the DNC by the Black Lives Matter Network, nor was it done in consultation with us. We do not now, nor have we ever, endorsed or affiliated with the Democratic Party, or with any party. The Democratic Party, like the Republican and all political parties, have historically attempted to control or contain Black people’s efforts to liberate ourselves. True change requires real struggle, and that struggle will be in the streets and led by the people, not by a political party.
More specifically, the Black Lives Matter Network is clear that a resolution from the Democratic National Committee won’t bring the changes we seek. Resolutions without concrete change are just business as usual. Promises are not policies. We demand freedom for Black bodies, justice for Black lives, safety for Black communities, and rights for Black people. We demand action, not words, from those who purport to stand with us.
While the Black Lives Matter Network applauds political change towards making the world safer for Black life, our only endorsement goes to the protest movement we’ve built together with Black people nationwide — not the self-interested candidates, parties, or political machine seeking our vote.”
Assuming that statement is in any way legitimately representative of it, the movement, like Occupy and the Tea Party before it, is… prickly — particularly with regard to efforts to co-opt it.
Like those predecessors, especially Occupy (which foolishly had a deep ideological objection to hierarchy), it’s a little hard to focus on because it “is a decentralized network, and has no formal hierarchy or structure.” That is, no one is in charge.
Also, it has arisen from disparate events in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Charleston and elsewhere. To someone like me, I see those as discrete occurrences and draw different conclusions from them. To Black Lives Matter — I think; as I say, it’s hard to pin down — they are all part of a clear pattern.
All I know is that whenever I hear “Black Lives Matter,” I think, “Of course they do.” Beyond that, when I look at the movement’s clashes with various people, including those you would assume would be sympathetic, I don’t know what to think.