We made it! Today is the final day of this 28-day journey sharing my personal perspectives on the Black Experience in the United States. Early on, I decided to make Black Lives Matter (BLM) the last topic in the series for many reasons, but mainly because I wanted to allow this series to shape what I’d have to say.
There are still many aspects of being Black in the U.S. that a lot of Non-Black People don’t know about (nor should they – they aren’t Black). But some strive to learn more rather than assume what they’ve historically known is accurate. Think what you will about the endeavor, but that is a definitive step in the right direction toward healing racial divides in this country.
The willingness of others (Black and Non-Black) to step into my mind for some of these issues I’ve discussed has been inspiring and further reinforced, for me, that the world would be a much better place if we all built up our familiarity and empathy with one another – and actually talked. Such actions help us see humanity in one another and break down any artificial divisions we’ve built up as a society to our basic shared state of humanity.
All of that said, I figured out what I want to cover regarding BLM in this one. I realized this morning that when people mention BLM, they’re often actually referring to one of 3 things and mostly don’t specify:
Their Reaction to BLM
So, I’d like to talk about each of these three things today.
BLM is a historic movement that will be written about as a pivotal moment that further defines how the U.S. interacts with its Black citizens (for better or worse). It impacts all Black People in America, whether they actively participate in it or not, just as the Civil Rights Movement did. To anyone Black reading this:Non-Black America’s treatment of you will be further shaped (consciously or subconsciously) by whatever BLM achieves, or makes more nuanced, in the coming years.
That feels like a very important thing… Let’s get to it.
Black Lives Matter: The Statement
A key underrated moment of the Trump Administration took place in an interview with then-Vice President Mike Pence. He couldn’t bring himself to say the phrase, “Black lives matter”. And I get it, it was the VP speaking, so who cared? But it spoke volumes about the value system of those running our country at the time – and their mass of supporters.
I listened to things he said. The political posturing and platitudes. But I couldn’t get past the fact that he would not say the phrase. He’d then go on to maintain that stance when pressed about the phrase specifically in another interview shortly thereafter.
The repeated non-verbal denials stung to see from my Vice President. I would have discussions with people at the time about the importance of unspoken words. To not say things in certain situations reveals a lot about you given the context.
I had to break it down for one Trump Supporter online in terms of religion (something I assumed he could relate to). I told him that as a Christian, I would never grab a microphone in front of the nation and exclaim “Hail Satan” at the top of my lungs because it’s not something I agree with. It is in direct conflict with my character and value system as a person. It doesn’t fit. It isn’t a truism to me. I am against it. That is why I wouldn’t say it in that situation.
The Trump Supporter then went on to talk about how the words make one group special, etc. and I told him that’s projecting onto the phrase. No matter how you slice it – the phrase is, “Black lives matter.” That is it. There is no “more” or “most” at the end. There is no “only” at the beginning.
Yes, “All lives matter,” but that’s not something an overwhelming majority of Black People would disagree with unless it’s in the context of pointing out that a segment of Americans won’t acknowledge that “Black lives matter”. What I mean by that is if you can’t say “Black lives matter,” then “All lives” do in fact NOT matter to you.Black Lives would have to be included in All Lives. You can’t have one without the other, and so long as people can’t bring themselves to say “Black lives matter” then “All lives DO NOT matter.” Logically, you can’t have one truth without acknowledging the other.
And then we got into a civil conversation about defunding the police and I explained that one to him while letting him know that I have friends and family who are officers – so, yes – even Blue Lives mattered to me, too. But it pains me to see that people refuse to simply state the phrase “Black lives matter,” as if it’s going to kill them. The Trump Supporter went on to say that he saw my point, and I think we actually ended the discussion in a better place than we started it off in. I think I helped him see sides of the issue he wasn’t seeing. I doubt I changed his stance, but at least he was able to see a new perspective.
Since then, I’ve given Mike Pence an out: He is a politician.
Politicians can’t take on phrasing in a vacuum when speaking about topics like BLM. They must consider the implications of all 3 of the things I mentioned earlier with a politicized slant. Pence had to consider the validity of the statement itself; how his words would further legitimize any organizations tied to the statement; and the reactions of the voters he needed to please to remain in power. I get it.
However, I refuse to grant him a pass when it comes to his job title (which I feel overrides his role as a mere politician). I strongly feel U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents are called upon to rise above partisan political climates by nature of their stations. They have to in order to fulfill their duty to preserve and try to create a more perfect union.
Hearing the phrase “Black lives matter” from someone of his position could’ve potentially done a lot of good, and calmed some of the commotions at that time. And I feel like he failed to see the value in that. Or he just fundamentally took issue with the phrasing. Or, very likely, he feared the wrath of Trump and his followers and any political fallout. This wasn’t his hill to die on.
Either way, many people rally behind the phrasing because they don’t see anything wrong with it (which is good), BUT I’d argue that a lot of people don’t know much about the organization credited with making the phrase a movement beyond a hashtag on Social Media.
Black Lives Matter: The Organization
Some people refuse to utter the BLM slogan because of the organization tied to the popularization of those three famous words. But what do people actually know about the group? I’d wager that a lot of people who chant or damn the phrase have never even taken the time to research the group (because that’s just not how the U.S. is wired on topics like this).
Although I clearly agree with a lot of the group’s ideals, this isn’t about converting anyone – this is merely for informational purposes because I’m assuming many people haven’t seen these things. If you read this stuff you aren’t committing some form of treason or supporting any radical ideas aimed at breaking down the structural integrity of the United States as a whole.
I urge you not to just take my word for it. Watch the quick video (produced in 2018) directly below this paragraph, and come to your own conclusions. This explains who they are, what they do, why they do it, and what they encourage others to do.
And the group is known for issuing coordinated demands across their network, like these that they expressed following the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
BLM isn’t even really a singular organization these days so much as a collection of chapters who all perform various activities around the country and in the UK and Canada. You can see a summary of their efforts in 2020 in this report.
They have three major entities: BLM Global Network Foundation, BLM PAC, and BLM Grassroots – and the group’s primary website promotes ideals, sells t-shirts and other merch, and acts as a coordinating point for resources and gatherings.
You can find links to their Social Media and other things on their website.
That’s the official organization.
Some genuinely disagree with the group and what they ultimately stand for (“Ending White Supremacy” — their words, not mine), but on what grounds – I can’t say. You’ll need to do your own research on that topic and come to your own decision on how morally bankrupt the organization’s goals may or may not be.
I don’t think enough people actually know about the organization itself, so I hope the few things I posted above go a long way in exposing some (even if it’s only a handful of people) to what the group really stands for in its own words and not through the words of a figurehead or commentator on a “news” network.
Black Lives Matter: The Reactions
First – before I say anything – a bunch of videos of people reacting to BLM. If you aren’t curious about ANY of what’s said in these videos, just scroll past them to the end of the article.
Black Lives Matters has its share of supporters…
And its share of enemies…
At the End of It All…
Can I tell you the difference between this group, the NAACP, and the tons of other Black Rights Groups out there? Haha – I’d need more specifics in terms of what you’re looking for, but I can say that BLM is relatively young – and relatively more relevant right now because of the tactics they deploy and the associated notoriety. I remember growing up and people would be concerned about Rev. Al Sharpton getting involved — now, BLM answers the call. I am sure other groups do as well, but they don’t get the news coverage (or the public ire) that BLM gets right now.
I value their work. I have attended some events. I like the fact that people seem to be rallying around their stance. I like the fact that they haven’t compromised on their views (yet).
Do I think they’re a magic bullet? Do I think they’ll get all of the work done? Do I think they’ll fix racial divisions in this country? By nature of their goals and who they represent, no. But I’m happy they’re a part of the discussion. I am happy that younger generations co-opt their cause and aren’t all taught that what BLM is fighting for is wrong.
Do I think that some people are taking advantage of BLM and riding on its momentum for their own advantage vs. the uplifting of a historically marginalized group of U.S. Citizens? Definitely. There are some bad people with a lot to gain from BLM failing OR succeeding. But I don’t think that’s everyone.
Black Lives Matter is a HUGE contributor to my future in this country whether I like it or not. I care about it and get involved with it because I don’t like to passively let anyone, even people who look like me, determine my fate. I don’t care how others are reacting to BLM, but I know that others do. I guess all I can say about that is look at reactions from multiple perspectives if you have the time. Challenge your ideas and determine what is best for your inner peace at the end of the day.
Being transparent here, I think a lot of people are bothered by “Black lives matter” as a statement and Black Lives Matter as an organization because it’s been spun as a special interest group that only benefits Black People, and not something that conforms with our American value system. I would argue that there are few things today that are more aligned with America’s supposed values than BLM (in my book). As Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” right?
Overall, I think BLM is really a human issue, not necessarily something ONLY for Black People — three concerned Black women just coined a phrase and brought it into our collective struggle. They were willing to do something. People suffering due to systemic oppression is bad; Racism is bad for everyone; anyone being unnecessarily killed by law enforcement meant to protect them is bad; Racial Inequality is bad; and so on.
The truth of the matter IS that All Lives Matter (as I said earlier, Black People really won’t disagree with you there). BUT – had Black People gone the route of using that slogan, it would’ve been ignored. We had to be specific and get one clear thing accepted first (because, historically, America doesn’t agree – and even now, this country still doesn’t seem to think so): Black Lives Matter. And anyone who shouts “All lives matter” in response to “Black lives matter” is just trying to silence that simple truth.
I will say it again: Black Lives Matter.
I know that might make some people uncomfortable but we’re here, and a great deal of us are tired of being treated like second-class citizens in a country we contribute so much to now, and our ancestors contributed more than their fair share to in the past. The secret is out, “The United States of America is my country, too. The United States of America belongs to Black People, too.”
I will say it again: Black Lives Matter.
If you aren’t Black (and especially if you’re not a minority) – respectfully – you have NO IDEA what it’s like to grow up and exist as a Black Person in America. It is different than your experience (and chances are it’s not in a positive way). That is very real and very honest.
I will say it again: Black Lives Matter.
It has truly been a pleasure sharing my thoughts on these (sometimes challenging) topics with people over the last month. I have valued the conversations outside of this blog, and I feel like I learned things I didn’t know through this process.
If you landed here because of Black History Month, great – but I’d challenge you to take that same sense that urged you to read these posts, and utilize that every day for all people.
To those pushing this cause along (Black or Non-Black), keep it up. You are impacting the world and changing things for the better. I hope the hate subsides one day soon. I hope the anger (from everyone) is directed constructively. I hope the fear melts away.
I’m going to end this one today with an unexpected song selection for a lot of people – but it’s where this month-long journey has left me. Be well, everyone.
Peace, and thanks for reading.
I am going to take a one-day break from writing, and then jump back into the fray on March 2, 2021.