Few would deny that in the past several years America has been poisoned by increased racial tension. However, the Black Lives Matter movement is not the antidote.
53 years ago, more than 200,000 people gathered in Washington DC for the March on Washington. It was there that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech. He became the pivotal leader for civil rights in the mid-20th Century and beyond. Today, the group that has tried to lift the same torch has been the Black Lives Matter movement. While MLK espoused equality and BLM argue that they do the same, only one did so through civil discussion and peaceful demonstrations.
Black Lives Matter began as a movement in 2012 in response to the death of Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman, a man who was labeled a “white Hispanic” by CNN (starting a separate racial controversy) said he shot the black teen in self-defense. No matter the reason he gave, this sparked outrage and began the BLM movement we see today. Throughout the years, more white-on-black killings have occurred, and the Black Lives Matter movement spread, using #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter to increase their influence. For a group of people to begin a movement with a common cause is noteworthy, but their answer and solution to the controversial events that sparked their origin are quite questionable.
Take, for example, the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. On 19 August 2014, Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot eighteen year old Michael Brown. This single confrontation sparked one of the largest national outrages in American history. Black Lives Matter quickly began to paint Wilson as the cop who murdered the young black man out of racist spite. On Twitter, BLM issued #HandsUpDontShoot as the response Brown gave to Officer Wilson before being shot. This was all obvious, it seemed: Wilson was the perpetrator of a heinous racist crime, and Brown was the innocent victim. Wilson, surely, would be punished accordingly.
The only problem was that the autopsy disproved everything BLM had been publicising. The official report backed Wilson’s and other eyewitnesses’ accounts of the conflict: Michael Brown had been under the influence, had just finished robbing a convenience store, and then attacked Wilson. Brown had never turned his back and said the infamous, “Hands Up Don’t Shoot”; he did the opposite and grabbed for Wilson’s gun. With this evidence, the grand jury voted to not prosecute Darren Wilson. After the verdict came in, protests spread throughout the nation. Cars were set on fire, buildings were vandalised, and whole cities became vulnerable to violence never seen since the Watts riots decades ago.
“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
These are the reasons why the BLM movement faces criticism. While they may have the right intentions in mind, their actions differ from the peaceful persuasion used by civil rights leaders in the past. Many other groups have stemmed from BLM, inspired by some of their protests. Some of these groups publically call for the killing of officers and others demand whites be punished for their crimes against the black community. Sources have said that movements such as #F***YoFlag, a group that desecrates the American flag on a daily basis, is affiliated with BLM: “[L]aw enforcement will not do anything to black supremacist activists because they affiliate themselves with Black Lives Matter, nobody wants to be accused of racism.”
Are there still signs of racism in America? Yes. Is it as prevalent as BLM wants it to be? Is it, in fact, present in every crime committed between a white and black person? No. BLM is fueled by the notion that America is a racist country – that the American police force is out to attack the black community. It is dangerous, however, to call a whole nation racist based on a several isolated incidents. We cannot be branding “racism” whenever an interracial conflict appears. If BLM continues to spread this rhetoric, the divide between true racism and an innocent policeman defending himself will no longer be apparent.
What needs to occur is a civil discussion regarding any laws BLM might find racist, as well as any certain individuals or police officers (of which there are some). BLM can no longer be starting protests, interrupting traffic, and distorting the facts if they want to get rid of racism once and for all.
The most recent controversy was the killings of Phillando Castille and Alton Sterling. Both incidents involved a white police officer shooting a black teenager, and both incidents sparked national outrage. While the facts are beginning to appear, it is imperative that Americans do not rush to conclusions. If that occurs, another Wilson/Brown narrative might appear, and it is never beneficial to start rumours, especially on a national stage. Shortly after the shootings, another tragedy occurred. In Dallas, Texas, 12 police officers were shot; five of them murdered by Mica Johnson, a member of the African-American Defense League.
Black Lives Matter was quick to respond to the attack, releasing a statement on their website: “Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it.” This would be a proper response if it weren’t so hypocritical. The same groups who have been on the news for their protests and riots dare say that they have “raised the call for an end to violence…” They seem to forget that they have played a role in the creation of a hostile environment against police officers. They are the ones who will be held accountable for any actions their own members commit – they have the biggest influence when it comes to the topic of racial division in America.
This interpretation of Black Lives Matter – that they have the right idea but poor execution – is also shared by President Barack Obama. In a town-hall-style gathering in London, President Obama offered criticism towards the movement: “The value of social movements and activism is to get you at the table, get you in the room, and then to start trying to figure out how is this problem going to be solved.” Black Lives Matter needs to follow the path the American president has laid out.
So far, Black Lives Matter has not acted in a way that shows they want a peaceful society for all races and backgrounds. The police force and other civil rights activists need to sit down with BLM and discuss the path forward. Is the path filled with more riots (such as the 37 riots over the country they have proposed), or is it instead composed of peaceful demonstrations? Can BLM point to any racist laws or members of society and fight against the inequity they see? The answers to these questions are vital in the discussion of life for African-Americans. Unless BLM can change their ways, they are an inadequate group to continue the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.