What is Black Lives Matter?
BLM has many voices, but the main goal is to empower marginalized black people of any gender to make the ideal that “all lives matter equally” a reality. In other words “unity and equality” is the general goal (not a stated and shared goal of all BLM members).
To have unity and equality, we have to address racial discrimination and empower those disenfranchised by society. It’s not about knocking good people down (specifically white people and police officers), it’s about lifting good people up (specifically good black people).
This is why it is said that “Black Lives Matter” and not “All Lives Matter”, saying black lives matter implies that all lives matter while at the same time addressing inequality in America.
A History of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
NOTE: Neither the website or the author represent BLM. This is an interpreation of the movement based on our research.
Black Lives Matter, a Grassroots Black Liberation and Civil Rights Movement
BLM is a semi-organized, mostly grassroots, revival / extension of the Black Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. The video below will help you understand what that means.
Freedom Radio News Special: “The Black Liberation Movement” (1968-1975). BLM = BLM, this was no accident.
TIP: Even the perception of a problem is a problem. You don’t have to agree with BLM’s stated problems, or solutions, to support and/or respect a disenfranchised people standing up, as is their right as Americans.
FACT: Within the past 100 years black men, and then all women, got the right to vote in America. In the 70’s we stopped arresting gay people for being gay. These things didn’t happen on their own. The past is closer than we think, and some would argue we haven’t truly fixed our problems yet. Humans are slow to make a change, but quick to adapt to it. This is just one factor that can give those on the outside of the struggle a skewed perspective on questions like “is race an issue in the US?”.
BLM According to #BlackLivesMatter
According to the Black Lives Matter website the #BlackLivesMatter Organization was founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza after as a response to the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman. It was also a response to the “anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements.”
From here, millions of Americans became active members on and off of social media, using #BlackLivesMatter to spread the message. As the BLM movement grew it’s founders and outspoken activists have attempted to define #BlackLivesMatter beyond the hashtag.
Black Lives Matter Co-Creator Alicia Garza On The New Civil Rights Movement.
BLM is a Grassroots Movement and a Continuation of Other Black Liberation Movements
As noted above, BLM is a grassroots movement with many players who have differing ideas on the exact meaning of #BlackLivesMatter. Generally, BLM seeks to empower all black people of all genders and backgrounds who have been marginalized by society (including other black liberation movements). It’s a movement, an organization, a hashtag, a continuation of previous movements, a call to awareness, and a call to action.
This message can focus solely on black lives of Americans in regards to unequal treatment by the criminal justice system (as BLM has it’s rooted in protesting the Trayvon Martin murder), but also extends to other types of oppression toward black people across the world. As the movement grows it has appeared to broaden its message beyond police violence, but as a grassroots movement, there isn’t one defining voice to confirm this.
TIP: To learn more about what Black Lives Matter means check out the official site. To support the Black Lives Matter movement use the tag #BlackLivesMatter on social media.
Everyone gets to understand Black Lives Matter in their own way. That means some will be critical. During the gay liberation movement in the 70’s some people threw bricks, some marched, and some lobbied congress. Ultimately all the tactics had merit. Learn more about gay liberation here or more about women’s liberation here.
TIP: Check out Campaign Zero, a project by BLM focused solely on what they see is actionable issues in the US criminal justice system. Campaign Zero is open to anyone who supports reform of the criminal justice system, despite being a Black Lives Matter issue.
DeRay Mckesson on Black Lives Matter and Campaign Zero.
Don’t All Lives Matter?
Generally speaking, (again the movement has many voices and not one single voice) BLM understands that “all lives matter”, and that violence and discrimination against black people isn’t the only issue in America.
From here we could talk about the good cops, those in suits trying to make changes in congress, the dangers of rocking the boat, black-on-black crime, low-income neighborhoods, and violence, gang culture, or even how BLM incites a division between our youth and our civil servants. But, that is splitting the conversation, and these are topics for another day. I’ll sum it up by paraphrasing Alicia Garza, “when social programs keep black people down, that IS violence by the state. That is what BLM stands against” and now paraphrasing DeRay Mckesson, “BLM is simple to understand, but it’s a nuanced discussion from there.”
Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter: The Youth speak in NYC.
FACT: BLM believes that proving “all lives matter equally” involves addressing discrimination against black people and showing that “black lives matter too”. To show this is true as a society we have to address the unequal treatment of black people in America. If one house in the neighborhood is burning, we don’t pour water over all houses equally. We put out the house on fire.
Confronting the racism of #BlackLivesMatter. This video starts off boring, but it segues into a logical argument against BLM (albeit based on one group in Seattle who obviously didn’t have a speech planned). It’s important to understand the other side, no matter what side you are on. That requires communication.
Understanding Black Lives Matter
It’s important to understand the following things about Black Lives Matter:
BLM doesn’t imply that other lives don’t matter. As Deray Mckensson said on the daily show (paraphrasing), “saying All Lives Matter is like walking into a breast cancer awareness event and saying why aren’t you talking about colon cancer ‘all cancer matters’.” In other words, at least, Mckensson considers the comeback: “All Lives Matter” to be a distraction technique and a misunderstanding of the point of BLM.
BLM doesn’t focus on other known issues facing black people. Black on black violence, socioeconomic issues facing black communities, drug use in black communities, gang violence, education, and more are all recognized as problems facing black Americans in unique ways. However, BLM, in general, is focused on black lives in relation to discrimination by the police and the United States criminal justice system, as well as the general empowerment of black people.
Just because an issue involves black people doesn’t mean it is discrimination. Sometimes black people commit crimes and sometimes white cops and judges make the right call. Don’t think anyone is contesting this. What is contested is the racial profiling and injustice that black people in communities across America fall victim too (regardless of the exact reasoning as to why this is happening and where this is happening).
BLM isn’t a judgment call on specific people, officers, neighborhoods, districts, precincts, courts, politicians, etc. BLM is a call to recognize and take action against the general overarching issue of “racial inequality and injustice in the United States criminal justice system” in regards to black Americans, which by nature can involve specific people and places. BLM is trying to address the disproportionate amount of black deaths and incarcerations, and the unequal treatment of non-black lives in the courts. For example the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. Other examples include Tamir Rice, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Jonathan Ferrell, Sandra Bland, Samuel DuBose and Freddie Gray (and probably many more than one would care to admit).
BLM generally stands up against injustice. Black Americans face a unique type of injustice in regards to the criminal justice system, and this is BLM’s main focus. However, like feminist movements or LGBT movements they also “extend their arms” to other communities that face discrimination (especially when it relates to their cause). For instance BLM recently “stood in solidarity with the Residence of Flint Michigan”. NOTE: In simple terms, Flint is a largely black, and largely poor, city in Michigan who was reportedly poisoned by their local government to save money on water.
Anyone can be a part of BLM(-ish) either philosophically (by listening to and sharing their ideas), or actively by joining the movement. BLM is focused on injustice against black people, but like most civil rights movements, all genders and races are welcome to join philosophically or actively.
NOTE: BLM isn’t one person, it’s many. On one level it’s a black movement for black people, for black empowerment. It’s black people, addressing black problems. White “allies” of BLM should treat that title as respect, this is the same with any social movement, feminism included. You can support the movement ideologically or actively, and you can march alongside a movement, but you can’t be something you are not.
We are committed to acknowledging, respecting, and celebrating differences and commonalities among the people in protest, dissent, and resistance to anti-black systems. – Black Lives Matter
Is there Actually Discrimination and Injustice Against Black People in America?
Statistically black people today, and in the past, are more likely to be the victims of police violence and incarceration. Statistics go up and down and differ by region. The US is a big and diverse place. You can check out this Wikipedia article: “Race in the United States criminal justice system” or do a google search on “race and criminal justice in the United States”.
“Is there a criminal justice issue regarding race in America” is not the factoid we are addressing here.
Suffice to say, non-white and specifically black Americans (for a large number of reasons) have different experiences with many issues statistically speaking. I will confirm that BLM strongly believes that black people face a number of issues, which require immediate attention.