Black Lives Matter

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Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an international activist movement whose goal is the elimination of systemic racism against black people, especially in law enforcement. The movement has been responsible for hundreds if not thousands of protests all over the world. The slogan "black lives matter" became popular in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted after murdering black teenager Trayvon Martin. Although I don't agree with every form of protest done in the name of the BLM movement, I completely agree with their cause and the majority of their protests. There is a very real problem with law enforcement killing unarmed black people and avoiding punishment.

I became aware of the BLM movement as it unfolded because the Zimmerman murder trial was on my radar while it was happening.

Criticisms

I usually find the criticisms of BLM to be a combination of ignorance and racism, but there are occasionally some good points to be made.

Probably the most common criticism is with the phrase "black lives matter" itself, specifically that it only focuses on black lives. Critics will say, what about Native Americans, Jews, women, white people; what about all lives in general? However, whataboutism is not a valid criticism on any issue. This is like criticizing an oncologist for only treating cancer when people are still dying of heart disease. A person can focus on one issue and still care about other issues.

A second common criticism is about the BLM movement's use of civil disobedience in their protests including tactics like blocking traffic on roads, organizing sit-ins in capital buildings, and various other forms of disruption. The purpose of such civil disobedience is to raise awareness, even to those who are not directly involved, so that everyone is forced to confront the issue rather than ignore it. Civil disobedience is tricky to pull off because it gives oppressors a tangible excuse to refer to the protestors as criminals rather than freedom fighters. Misinformation sources like the Republican Party and Fox News have done a fairly good job at convincing white Americans that BLM is a violent organization, even though they're actually non-violent. According to a survey conducted by Marist Poll and funded by PBS NewsHour, 41% of white Americans believe that BLM promotes violence. I think that BLM civil disobedience protests that target the general public, like blocking highways, aren't very effective and have a negative impact on their goal, but I do agree when they target the offices and homes of political figures who have made racist comments.

A third common criticism is that BLM distracts from the real problems of racism. The same Marist Poll survey found that 59% of white Americans believe BLM is merely a distraction from the real problems of racial discrimination in the USA, however, 65% of black Americans say it does focus attention on racism in the USA. I don't fully understand the reasoning behind this criticism since BLM's stated goals are clearly about fighting racism. My guess is that, because so many white people don't believe racism exists--the same study found that the majority of white people think black Americans have an equal opportunity in issues like education, being hired, pay rate, credit and loans, and legal justice--they see BLM protests as pointless or harmful. However, if you don't think racism exists, why would you think BLM is a distraction from solving racism?

Appropriation of the Slogan

Critics of the phrase "black lives matter" have appropriated it into a number of alternate phrases like "all lives matter," "blue lives matter," and various others. These are often dog whistles for racism, or sometimes, like in the case of "white lives matter," straight up racist.

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