Monday, August 10, 2015

In Defense of #BlackLivesMatter

 Photo by Gage Skidmore  Some rights reserved
There was a lot of hub bub with the disruption at the Bernie Sanders rally by BLM protesters. I have variety of feelings about this, and I'm not sure they are all easy to convey, but I am going to try.

I think the two women who disrupted the rally in the name of BLM chose their venue poorly. Why take the stage away from Bernie Sanders, who more than likely is your best ally in the presidential race? Why protest to people who, also more than likely, support the BLM cause? It seems like a waste of time, energy and resources.

Washington State Senator Pramila Jayapal did a thoughtful editorial on what happened at the event and while I think she makes some good points, I think some of what she says is a little off base. She said the mostly white crowd turned ugly. Yes, I think people in the crowd were feeling many things, anger, disappointment, sure, probably some racism, and I'm sure there was some solidarity, but for her to point out that the crowd was mostly white seems inconsequential. Washington State is 81% white and 4% black. I think no matter what the ratio of white to black, people were going to feel many different things about the protest. White or African American I'm sure some would agree and others would disagree with the protest.

There were many different reasons for the individuals in the crowd to feel the way they did and it wasn't necessarily because they don't believe in the BLM movement. As Jayapal also stated, some were probably annoyed by the disruption, some may have disagreed with the tactics, some were disappointed because after standing in the hot sun all day, they didn't get to hear Sanders speak.

Sanders may have handled the situation poorly; I think that's forgivable. He was caught off guard. The protesters handled their demonstration  haphazardly, as if they didn't have any kind of plan at all. Then to call the entire crowd a bunch of racist supremacists...well, they reduced themselves to that in which they are decrying - racists. I'm one of the most tolerant people I know, and I would have felt highly offended and disrespected had I been there. I probably would have booed them too. If you're going to dismantle an event in that way, how about instead of insulting everyone you try to connect with them and urge them to pull  together as a community to fight injustice. And don't scream at people. And when you've had your say, give the mic back. There were important things that needed to be discussed by Sanders and they affect everyone, including the black lives that matter.

Did the protesters achieve what they set out to do? Maybe. They made people listen. They made people remember Michael Brown and other blacks killed unjustly. But as I said before, I would guess the majority of those in that crowd had already been listening and still remembered Michael Brown,  Eric Garner, John Crawford, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and of course Trayvon Martin, whose death incited the formation of BLM in the first place. I would bet those women were preaching to the choir.

BLM on a national level needs to rally their local chapters and ensure everyone is on the same page with their tactics and goals. What they do and how they represent should be consistent across the board. I know there's some question about the validity of these women actually being part of BLM, but at this point it doesn't matter. They disparaged the movement in many people's eyes resulting in a loss of support of a worthy cause.

All that said, I will still support BLM. I don't think these two women were the best representation of the organization. I think what BLM is doing is important. People need to understand that Black Lives Matter. And yes, all lives matter, but we, as a white people do not face the same challenges as the African American community. If you don't believe that, then you are part of the problem.

I believe BLM's fight needs to keep progressing and that changes need to be made in our criminal justice system, education, and in our communities in so many other ways. I honestly don't know if racism will ever completely go away. It's extremely difficult to eradicate centuries old learned behavior of abuse and oppression. I hope with the emergence of every new generation, the stereotypes, racial profiling and fear of our differences will wane. I hope that little by little people will stop teaching hate and start embracing diversity and exhibiting tolerance. I think we're on the right track, but I do think organizations like Black Lives Matter are important in the fight against social injustice and that they need our support.

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