Current Events, Race, Social Media

Black Lives Matter, but everything ain’t Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter organization is one of the scores of organizations that are invested in the liberation of Black people and the dismantling of systemic racism. 

There are also scores of grassroots organizations and groups that are acting under the presupposition that’s Black Lives Matter, but are themselves not aligned with the organization. There are other actors that are operating under the Black Lives Matter name without specific direction or even the blessing of the organization. There are organizations with their own names, governance, structure, etc. that are acting on behalf of Black lives that are being called Black Lives Matter, though they have no ties to the organization. There are even individuals acting in bad faith and using the movement to forward agendas that are only tangentially related to Black lives. 

My point is that when people point to things that they don’t like and scream, “See, this is why I don’t support the BLM organization,” or, “Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization.” or “Why are you supporting an organization that is so wrong,” they are putting their ignorance on full display. 

Anyone who has ever participated in any kind of action anywhere or, heck, has spent any amount of time reading and listening to people who are in the movement knows that the BLM organization isn’t as ubiquitous in the movement as movement outsiders  would have you think. This is no shade toward BLM, but rather a statement of the fact that the movement for the protection of Black lives and the preservation of Black dignity is bigger than any one organization or person. 

The Black community has ALWAYS organized for ourselves either in grassroots efforts or in our own local organizations. And there are often multiple groups and actors involved in the struggle. It is utterly reductive and wholly inaccurate to talk about Black Lives Matter as if it is some highly organized network of people who are all acting with the same ends in mind and making the same demands. Again, anybody who has been out in the streets knows that this is utter nonsense. 

The movement for Black lives can, more accurately, be summed up as a web of various actors and organizations with overlapping (if not interconnected) goals, demands, praxis, and modalities. There is not a centralized figure, set of ethics, guiding principles, or pedagogies. The movement is as complex and multifaceted as Blackness itself. 

Anyway, all of this to say that there are a lot of folks who feel the need to always qualify their support of the Black Lives Matter movement because they “disagree” with the organization. When I see these qualifications, even from other Black folks, it tells me that they are not involved in movement work. If they had any substantive engagement with the movement and with the various actors who move locally, regionally, and even nationally, they would know how unnecessary it is to qualify their support for the movement. 

No one ever fully agrees with what every organization stands for. There are groups that I am in solidarity with that I don’t fully agree or endorse everything that they say and do. If I slid into every conversation where certain groups and people are mentioned and voiced my disapproval of certain aspects of their praxis, mission, or values, I would sound like a jerk; which is exactly how some folks be sounding. 

There’s white folks out here doing zero work but want to be loud and wrong about the Black Lives Matter movement. These folks can’t name six other organizations doing antiracism work and can’t tell you who the organizers are in their city, state, or region, but they think that they have enough information to condemn an entire movement because they don’t like one organization’s tenets or don’t like some other folks’ actions. 

There are folks who stay on Angela Davis’ internet talking nonsense about a movement that they have no interest in trying to understand from its best representatives. The so-called “agenda” of the Black Lives Matter organization isn’t what is keeping people from being down with the movement; racism is. If the people who claim that they hate the organization but care about Black lives really cared about Black lives, they would know that the movement is bigger than any one organization because they would have positive contact with Actual Black People who are in the movement. Instead, they want to clutch their pearls and pocketbooks and rant about stuff they know nothing about. 

I would love to offer some kind of healing treatise for how we should engage such people and try to win them over. The hard truth is that these people don’t want to be won over. They’ve had almost an entire decade to get right and they have actively chosen to walk around with their fingers in their ears. What I have said is Basic Crap. If people refuse to understand basic stuff, there’s nothing we can do to help them. 

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