In response to the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Black Lives Matter is once again asserting itself across The United States. A great deal of debate has occurred regarding their wide range of tactics, from peaceful protests, blocking busy streets and highways, to violent riots. While we’ve seen a great deal of violence pour out of the Black Lives Matter community, we’ve also seen a great deal of positive and cooperative action, including inclusive interactions with local and state police.
Opinions of Black Lives Matter amongst Republicans range the full spectrum, from supportive, to tolerable, to outright rejection and hatred. Unfortunately, there is no way to label and judge the entire Black Lives Matter movement without deliberately ignoring the outliers and extremes, which are not rare in their presentations. Yes, there is a great deal of violence. There is also a great deal of nonviolence and cooperation and real community outreach and conversation.
I have a great deal of respect for Americans who choose to protest peacefully and respectfully, using the spotlight they receive to encourage conversations and thought regarding the issues they feel are of the highest importance. I have no respect for violence, for rioting, or for massive disruptions to our transportation system. I have no respect for people who engage in, tolerate, or celebrate violence toward police officers or other public officials. I have no respect for people who make excuses for those protesters who cross the line, as if, because they are African American, they cannot be expected to behave peaceably. Such attitudes are inherently racist and unjustified.
That said, when discussing Black Lives Matter, we cannot be addressing every protest, every individual, or every organized event associated with the African American community’s response to what many feel is a systemic problem with violence within our police departments toward African Americans. Black Lives Matter is an actual organization with an actual agenda. This agenda is published and organizers are actively working to execute this agenda. So when we discuss Black Lives Matter, it must be clear that we are discussing the official body, its organization and operations, and its’ leadership specifically, and not the unofficial participation of every individual or group of individuals.
The following principles are published at blacklivesmatter.com by the official Black Lives Matter organization and it is the collection of these principles which I am considering when attempting to answer the question about whether or not Black Lives Matter ought to be accepted by conservatives, libertarians, constitutionalists and other Republicans.
- We are committed to acknowledging, respecting and celebrating difference(s) and commonalities.
- We are committed to collectively, lovingly and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension all people. As we forge our path, we intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting.
- We are unapologetically Black in our positioning. In affirming that Black Lives Matter, we need not qualify our position. To love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a necessary prerequisite for wanting the same for others.
- We see ourselves as part of the global Black family and we are aware of the different ways we are impacted or privileged as Black folk who exist in different parts of the world
- We are guided by the fact all Black lives, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status or location.
- We are committed to embracing and making space for trans brothers and sisters to participate and lead. We are committed to being self-reflexive and doing the work required to dismantle cis-gender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
- We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.
- We are committed to practicing empathy; we engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.
- We are committed to making our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We are committed to dismantling the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” that require them to mother in private even as they participate in justice work.
- We are committed to embodying and practicing justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another.
- We are committed to fostering a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking or, rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual unless s/he or they disclose otherwise.
- We are committed to fostering an intergenerational and communal network free from ageism. We believe that all people, regardless of age, shows up with capacity to lead and learn.
These commitments are essentially a regurgitation of the Marxist attitudes of the late 1960s radicals whom have taken over most of our college and university campuses and they have hardly anything to do with finding solutions to injustice at the hands of police. This is the language of a political movement, not a cultural movement rising in response to a violent and unjust government. It is important to take note of their motivations and fundamental philosophy before deciding to accept this movement as legitimate.
A legitimate response to police injustice is to petition local, city, and state executives to hold their law enforcement officers accountable and to ensure a culture of objective application of laws and an objective attitude in approach toward each citizen as an individual, not as members of a particular race, gender, or religion. Peaceful protests are legitimate. Riots and mass disruptions are not.
A legitimate movement seeks to meet injustice with justice. It does not tack on arbitrary and unrelated political or cultural agendas.
While I support every peaceful Americans’ right to protest and voice their opinion, I do not accept as legitimate an organization which uses the death of fellow citizens to activate a political movement with unrelated political and cultural agendas. I do not accept violence as an acceptable tactic for drawing attention to important issues related to social justice. In fact, when protesters become violent, when they destroy private property, murder or injure police officers, disrupt mass-transit, or trash, damage, or otherwise harm their own communities, it is the injustice of their actions which become the story, as opposed to the injustices being protested in the first place.
Thanks to social media and the internet, Americans have access to numerous stories about peaceful protests done right, as well as beautiful lessons about cooperation between protesters and counter-protesters. Many Americans are using recent events to come together as communities to encourage one another and to petition their elected officials to explore solutions to perceived injustices.
However, it is my opinion that these positive occurrences are entirely organic and unrelated to the Black Lives Matter central organization and planners. These positive protests and the individuals who participate in them, do not require an organization called “Black Lives Matter”. They do not need a politically and culturally motivated activist organization to define their interests, concerns, or methods of protest and outreach. Sincere individuals with sincere concerns and productive requests of their elected officials have much more legitimacy on their own, than were they to associate themselves with an inherently Marxist movement like Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter should not be considered a legitimate spokes-organization for organic protests related to police action.
I hope that Americans would choose not to look up to or encourage national protest organizations like BLM and would instead choose to interact with their elected officials, their communities, and their neighbors as individuals, independent from unnecessary national organizational structures which seek to use those individuals for a broader political and cultural agenda.