Has ‘Black Lives Matter’ advanced the cause
of racial equality or set it back ?
The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers prompted massive demonstrations nationwide. Surveys by nonprofit foundations estimated at least 15 million people of all races participated. Most of the demonstrations were peaceful, but some turned violent, causing destruction of property and monuments.
The Black Lives Matter organization is described by Wikipedia as a “decentralized movement…advocating for non-violent civil disobedience” that protests “incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against African-American people.” While the organization did not directly organize the protests, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” dominated signs, clothing and speeches at the protests.
This month’s question is: Did the protests, which included incidents of violence, and which coalesced around the term Black Lives Matter, which some regard as divisive, advance the cause of racial equality and justice or set it back?
Alison’s response to the question:
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, which peaked about June 6, may have been the largest protest movement in our country’s history. Polls cited by the New York Times suggest that 15 to 26 million people joined the demonstrations.
A greater percentage of participants in these protests were white than in previous protests, either because they watched the video of George Floyd’s death, or saw an online video of police violence toward black protesters. They may have had more time or access to these online videos because of staying home or working from home due to Covid 19.
The scale of these protests by far exceeds the 2017 Women’s March (3 to 5 million) and is exponentially larger than racial protests in the 1960s (hundreds of thousands, not millions).
Although it is still early to determine the effects, it seems as though the protests have begun to produce some change: Nationwide, cities and states are examining better, less violent policing; Portland has prohibited its police force from using tear gas and flash bombs; many states and cities have outlawed choke holds; New York has repealed a law that kept police disciplinary records secret; and Mississippi has retired its state flag, which included the Confederate battle symbol.
Just as protests began to abate, and the work of responding to demands began to progress, the Trump administration, absent any request by local officials, sent Department of Homeland Security troops into cities that had Democratic leadership. The role of these officers was supposedly to quell “violent” protests and prevent vandalism to federal property. But the action, rather than suppressing the protests, appears to have inflamed and escalated the violence.
George Floyd was a serial offender, a known drug addict and was in the process of committing another felony at the time of his arrest. Nonetheless, his murder at the hands of a rogue cop while three other cops stood passively by was an American tragedy. Thankfully, all four cops were quickly arrested for their crimes and now face justice, but not before riots broke out across the country.
An organization calling itself Black Lives Matter stepped to the forefront by helping organize
some of those protests. Many of us recall the race riots that took place in the mid to late 1960s. In 1966, I lived in a riot area in Minneapolis. I was appalled to see the violence in response to the Floyd killing occurring in the exact same area.
Many believe the demonstrations and riots have grown out of all proportion to the George Floyd incident. To help understand why, it’s important to know just who BLM and their allies are.
BLM was organized in 2013 by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi. Cullors and Garza are militant activists for black and LGBTQ political causes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Both identify as “queer.” Nigerian-born Tometi is active in African immigration efforts. In a 2015 interview, Cullors stated that she and the others in the movement were versed in ideological theory and in fact were “…trained Marxists.”
The organization has close connections to and receives substantial funding from the Movement for Black Lives, which, like many black-led groups, receives money from business magnate George Soros’s foundation.
Alison responds to Steve
Steve, many protest movements begin with a core of very committed activists and some funding you may not approve of.
But the BLM protests have grown beyond the origins of the organization—and this is because millions of people are recognizing that the issues of police brutality, and unfair trials and convictions, persist. We must acknowledge the fact that lynching, hateful behavior and bigotry have continued way too long in our country, and we must stop it.
Do you really believe that Portland’s Wall of Moms, the Utah Jazz,major league baseball teams, and the recent local protesters in Ephraim and Mt. Pleasant are in league with a conspiracy backed by George Soros? I don’t think so. I believe the people involved are decent citizens showing their support for people in our country who are discriminated against.
The protesters across the country are a mixed group—they’re not a homogenous, masterminded militia determined to damage federal property. They’re noisy, they’re messy and they get in the way of normal business in small downtown areas of many cities. However, evidence shows that serious injuries are inflicted by federal agents or police on the protesters more often than vice versa.
You mention that when much younger, you lived in the area of Minneapolis where riots occurred. The reason those same areas appear in today’s BLM protests is that the problems of poverty and discrimination have not been solved. Fifty years later, changes are long overdue. This movement is not a Marxist conspiracy—and it is time to acknowledge the need for change and compassion and inclusion.
Steve’s final response
Alison, In the wake of the deaths of civil rights icons like Rep. John R. Lewis and Herman Cain, my concern is that these violent BLM protests are undoing much of what those great people leaders accomplished.
They fought for a colorblind society, and though we’re not completely there yet, the progress of the last 60 years is remarkable, though apparently not recognized or appreciated.
In 1960 we called blacks Negroes and all too often the hateful “N” word. Blacks couldn’t use the same lunchrooms or swimming pools as whites, or ride in the front of the bus.
Back then, a black president, blacks heading major U.S. corporations, blacks freely attending any college or university, blacks sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court or achieving the highest ranks in the U.S. military were inconceivable.
Utah wasn’t immune. In the 1950s and ‘60s black entertainers and sports teams were denied lodging at the old Hotel Utah (now the Joseph Smith Building).
There is a saying: “If you want respect, act respectable.” I fear that these violent protests rather than enhancing the cause of civil rights may be generating a new wave of white resentment, mistrust, disrespect, fear and renewed discrimination based not on skin color or race, but on demonstrators’ destructive behavior.