What You're Really Doing When You Attack Black Lives Matter
Political tension across the U.S. has been at an all-time high since the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Those at each end of the political spectrum have groups that they frequently blame for exacerbating these tensions, and one of the names that gets tossed around a lot is Black Lives Matter. But when you attack Black Lives Matter, you're going after a lot more than any isolated incident at a protest.
Black Lives Matter isn't just about the past four years, it's about the past 150. To attack Black Lives Matter is to deny the reality of generations of systemic oppression against black people. It's saying that black people don't have a right to be angry for the injustices laden on their ancestors, to cut off their access to their own history. It's saying that they don't still live with injustice in their daily lives, from the school systems they can access to the rates at which they are arrested for crimes.
Attacking Black Lives Matter is admitting that you can't empathize, at least with black people. It's saying that you've never really thought about how it must feel to walk a mile in any black person's shoes. It's ascribing stereotypes to black people, expecting them to be submissive and subservient to white culture, instead of taking a second to stop and think about how much you would want to be out in the streets protesting if you were them.
Even well-intentioned critiques of Black Lives Matter are hardly ever useful, because they usually represent a critical misunderstanding of what the movement is. Black Lives Matter is a centrally organized group that stands for political freedom for the marginalized, including queer, transgender, and disabled people. The actions of some individuals who stand with the movement don't define the entire movement — BLM no more stands for violence than it does for black supremacy.
At the end of the day, Black Lives Matter wants intersectional social equality. If you do anything to stand in the way of that, you open yourself up to calls of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. And that's the way it should be. Your first response to BLM should be "You're totally right, how can I help make it better," not "I have x, y, z, problem with how you're protesting systemic racism." If your priority is attacking the movement rather than moving forward to see what can be done, maybe there are some -isms lurking in your subconscious that you need to address.
You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. The Black Lives Matter movement is trying to create a new era of social justice in this country. , and it might just be succeeding. If it took gathering in the streets, screaming chants, and maybe even breaking a few windows, it will have been worth it. If you're spending any time attacking the movement rather than trying to achieve its goals, you're simply placing yourself on the wrong side of history.