What is Black Lives Matter?
The Black Lives Matter movement started as a hashtag on social networks and officially began in the United States in 2013 after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin in Florida.
The movement grew to protest not just the justice system in America but police brutality against Black people.
In 2016 the movement went global following the police killing of 37-year-old Alton Sterling. He was shot and killed by white police officers while being held on the ground outside a convenience store on 5 July. A day later, 32-year-old Philando Castile was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop.
What does Black Lives Matter mean?
When someone says black lives matter, they aren’t saying Black Lives Matter more than anyone else’s. What they are saying is Black Lives Matter as well, Black lives matter also. Black lives should matter.
If you are someone who is inclined to say all lives matter or blue lives matter in response to the Black Lives Matter call for justice, then you don’t understand or don’t want to understand what people are asking for. Or you are deliberately using it to dilute the message of racially motivated violence and police brutality against Black people.
The reality is this: It’s been over 155 years since slavery ended, Black lives mattered less during slavery, and they don’t matter much now. Isn’t it full time the lynching stopped? Isn’t it time for Black lives to be counted as human lives?
What does defund the police mean?
Defund the police doesn’t mean getting rid of the police force. The aim is to get governments to reallocate resources, funding and responsibilities that currently sit with the police to other initiatives that would improve public safety.
For years, community groups have promoted the defunding of law enforcement, asking for government budgets and public safety spending to be used to prioritise housing, employment, education and community health.
The police are heavily relied on as a solution to social problems, especially in the United States. They have police in schools, police are used to deescalate instances of mental health crises and as we have seen for some Black people, this hasn’t ended well. (Alfred Olango US, Kevin Clarke, UK). As when it comes to Black people, de-escalation isn’t a first response.
Compared to contemporary nations, the US spends significantly less on social services and more on public safety programs, and has exceedingly higher incarceration rates. These investments in police and prison, however, don’t translate to a safer country. In fact, police in America kill more people in days than many countries do in years and African Americans expereince higher arrest related deaths.
According to data collected by The Washington Post, around 1,000 people are shot and killed by the police in the United States each year, and Black men are more than twice as likely to be victims as white men.
Is Black Lives Matter racist?
Black Lives Matter is a decentralised global movement made up of thousands of people and dozens of pressure groups and charitable organisations seeking equality for black and brown lives. Black Lives Matter US and UK BLM are just two organisations within the movement. Unfortunately, their leaders have come under fire for saying things that upset people on the right.
Patrisse Cullors was co-founder of Black Lives Matter US. In an attempt to discredit the movement, right-wing pundits have been pushing a narrative that the whole movement has a Marxist agenda based on an old 2015 interview where Patrisse admits to being a Marxist. In 2020, Patrisse explains some things in a video.
In June 2020, UK BLM tweeted in support of Palastine saying:
As Israel moves forward with the annexation of the West Bank, and mainstream British politics is gagged of the right to critique Zionism, and Israel’s settler colonial pursuits, we loudly and clearly stand beside our Palestinian comrades.
This Tweet caused outrage amongst Jewish groups who accused the organisation of spreading hatred.
Since then, these two organisations are constantly used as hammers to berate anyone who supports the Black Lives Matter movement. You may see people on social media platforms talking about the woke Marxist BLM movement. This is what they are forming their opinions around. The right-wing media have managed to dilute the Black Lives Matter message using these two organisations. Black Lives Matter UK is sadly often confused with UK BLM who registered itself as Black Liberation Movement UK in 2020.
As was mentioned before, Black Lives Matter is a movement. Whilst some individuals within the movement have said anti-Semitic things and admit to being Marxists, you cannot and should not tar everyone with that same brush.
There’s this habit of expecting Black and brown communities to denounce the bad actions of an individual in their community and yet white communities aren’t required to do the same. The movement isn’t made up of just Black people. As one of the largest civil rights movement in the last 50 years, there will be some people with other agendas. Like wanting to tear down statues for example.
At the end of the day, the Black Lives Matter movement is made up of individuals who have different life experiences and a few may be bigoted and prejudiced. If one bad cop doesn’t spoil the whole bunch, the same rule should apply to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Black Lives Matter has not increased racism
Despite the Black Lives Matter movement being almost 9 years old, many people had never heard about it until 2020. With the global lockdowns, more people were sat in front of their TVs watching the news and for some, the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd were an eye-opener for them. Despite being on lockdown protesters took to the streets and pulled down statues of racists and slave owners amongst other things. Naturally, white nationalists saw this as an attack on their history. Even going so far as protesting the protestors and having a dig at the police at the same time. Showing us that blue lives don’t matter either.
The news cycle was filled with Black Lives Matter updates. Plus, there were big companies owning up to past racist activities, apologising and vowing to do better. TV programmers also reviewed their past content and removed them.
Paramount removed US reality TV show Cops, a show that glorified police aggression. In the UK, the BBC removed comedy show Little Britain from its platforms because of its portrayal of Black and Asian characters and the use of blackface. Channel 4 removed Bo Selecta from streaming services because in hindsight, comedian Leigh Francis putting on latex masks to impersonate Black celebrities could be deemed offensive. There were more shows just as ancient as those offered up on the altar “our bad” that were reviewed by programmers and deemed unacceptable. Many white people were upset at the decision and focussed their anger on the woke BLM movement.
In reeality the actions taken by these companies were just performative. If Black Lives really mattered for them, they would reflect it in their hiring process.
Worst still, football teams started taking a knee before a match. Unbelievable! Bringing politics into that sacred British sport. The fact that Kick it Out has been campaigning against racism in football since 1993 was clearly forgotten.
American footballer, Colin Kaepernick started kneeling in protest against racial inequality back in August 2016 and his career eventually suffered for it. His protests were unrelated to the Black Lives Matters movement but some Black Lives Matters protesters adopted this symbolism. It seeks to highlight injustice and those who are offended want to be offended.
The news that Black people were not happy about the racism perpetrated against them must have been upsetting for those who believed Britain was the least racist country in the world. They have been dragged kicking and screaming out of their comfort zone and been made to face the reality that yes, racism exists and no, Black people aren’t’ prepared to quietly take it anymore.
According to a poll carried out in November 2020, 78% of UK Conservative voters believe that the Black Lives Matter movement has inflamed racial tensions. The results are unsurprising to such a close ended, yes, no, don’t know, question. It would have been more valid to ask if by raising awareness of racism, the movement had made them lean into their racism more. Because the truth is racism has always been prevalent in the US and the UK. 2016 showed us that people were more than happy to be open about their racist and xenophobic tendencies. Nothing has changed.
People now claiming that Black Lives Matter has made them less inclined to care about the lives of Black people probably didn’t care about them to begin with.