February 21, 2016

The Opposition to #BlackLivesMatter

Black Lives Matter protest.jpg
By The All-Nite Images
I have seen a fair amount of opposition to the #BlackLivesMatter movement being expressed on social media. Unfortunately, the nature of the opposition seems rather vague and does not often extend beyond name calling. This leaves me wondering what it is all about. For those who oppose this movement enough to repeatedly insult it on social media, what do you suppose the primary complaints are? Is it a matter of disagreement with their aims, their tactics, the non-inclusive hashtag they selected, their leaders, all of the above? Or maybe it is something else entirely.

It seems to me that the primary goals of #BlackLivesMatter (e.g., engaging in activism designed to call attention to the killing of black persons by law enforcement officers, police brutality in general, racial profiling, racial inequality in the criminal justice system) are positive. This all strikes me as an important agenda. I have a difficult time imagining that many would deny that these are issues worth addressing.

Perhaps they are being criticized for being overly focused on black lives and overlooking other persons of color. But even if we were to decide that this was a fair criticism, it hardly seems sufficient to warrant the animosity some are aiming at them. I suppose their chosen hashtag could also be interpreted as suggesting that no lives other than black ones matter, but that would be a stretch. Isn't it fairly obvious that they are using that hashtag to call attention to what they perceive as issues that are not receiving sufficient attention? They aren't saying that non-black lives don't; they are merely identifying their focus. Other activist groups do this all the time, don't they?

The same seems to be true with respect to their leaders. Admittedly, I have seen one saying some fairly stupid things on Twitter, but that is hardly a valid reason to condemn the entire movement. Who knows what percentage of the movement would even recognize this one individual as a leader? I've ran across quite a few rational supporters of #BlackLivesMatter who can be contrasted with this one individual and come out looking good.

This leaves me with the suspicion that it might be their tactics that draw most of the negative attention. While I agree that some of their methods have been objectionable (e.g., blocking a bridge in a major city which would have impeded the access of emergency vehicles, shouting down politicians), I'm not sure why this would lead people to reject the whole thing. After all, their tactics have varied. They aren't protesting in the same way in every situation. Many supporters would not dream of blocking traffic and are far more interested in raising awareness of their fight on social media.

And I suppose there is yet another possibility that I have not considered yet: perhaps some white Americans are just terrified by the prospect of black activism. Some conservatives have attempted to blame #BlackLivesMatter for the murder of white police officers. Whether they really believe this or are merely trying to stoke fear for political gain is unclear.

In any case, I'll be the first to admit that I do not feel like I have a clear sense of why there has been so much animosity directed at #BlackLivesMatter. Any guesses as to what it is all about?
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