Why Black Lives Matter is ineffective

Point/Counter-Point: This article is part of a Op-Ed debate, and has another article to express an opposite opinion. To get the other side, click here to read, "Why Black Lives Matter is Effective."

Black lives matter. However, that, as an isolated statement, hasn't proven to be very effective in getting Americans on board with addressing problems that black people face in regards to violence against black people and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.

In fact, it doesn’t even seem effective within the black community. A Rasmussen Report revealed that only 31 percent of black voters would agree with the sentiment “black lives matter” with 78 percent preferring instead to say “all lives matter.”

It’s absolutely true that people of color are discriminated against by the police. However, 70 percent of voters believe it’s more a matter of inner city crime rather than discrimination against minorities, proving that the majority of people really don’t understand or sympathize with discrimination minorities face. The reason for this miscommunication stems from invisible leadership and the absence of specific, attainable goals that Americans can get behind.

The largest factor that contributed to the unfortunate lack of success by the movement is the lack of clear goals. With so many voices shouting so many things, it’s been hard for the rest of the country to see not only what changes need to be made, but how we can realistically make them. Blacklivesmatter.com tries to refute this by listing several changes that should theoretically fix the system.

These include: “swift and transparent legal investigation of all police shootings of black people; official governmental tracking of the number of citizens killed by police, disaggregated by race; the demilitarization of local police forces; and community accountability mechanisms for rogue police officers.”

However, they also want the country to "affirm the value of black life in practical and pragmatic ways, including addressing an increasing racial wealth gap, fixing public schools that are failing, combating issues of housing inequality and gentrification that continue to push people of color out of communities they have lived in for generations, and dismantling the prison industrial complex.”

But that’s not all. To complicate matters more, there are 13 other guiding principles of Black Lives Matter, which are listed under “What We Believe” on the homepage. To name a few: the commitment to the celebration of differences and commonalities; creating a space for black women “free from sexism, misogyny, and male‐centeredness;” creating an uplifting space for trans people of color to lead and work; being “unapologetically black;” awareness of different privileges or levels of impact black people face internationally; being inclusive to all “regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status or location;" building black villages that reject the nuclear family; “dismantling the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work 'double shifts' that require them to mother in private even as they participate in justice work;” freeing people of heteronormativity; and “fostering an intergenerational and communal network free from ageism."

I used almost 300 words of this article just trying to cover the various issues this movement is trying to tackle. Compare that to the civil rights movement, which you could basically sum up in under five words: “we want equal rights." The goal of the movement was clear to the American people, which allowed it to more easily gather support. In Black Lives Matter's attempt to be the most inclusive, progressive group, they have diluted the message. Without a strong, central message, people don't understand what the fuss is all about. In one corner of the internet, you have people talking about judicial discrimination, and in the other, about equality for women of color.

This likely would not have been an issue had a leader come forward. Despite the fact that many of its members deny it, proper leadership was and continues to be an issue for the BLM movement. Their website cites a desire to stray from having an older, cis-gendered male leading the group. They would prefer to have no leader than a leader who doesn't represent all kinds of people of color viewed as underrepresented, like women, the gender queer, or gays. By not having those people in leadership roles, they supposedly fail to recognize those people as valid, contributing members of the movement. The group chooses instead to have a “leaderful” movement in order to limit vulnerability and represent all groups.

In this regard, the movement has failed greatly. By trying to be the most inclusive group within the black community that they can possibly be, they have sacrificed one of the most important aspects of a social progress movement: leadership.

One of the reasons the civil rights movement was so hugely successful and made such significant progress was because they had an identifiable, educated leader that was able to speak on behalf of their people, giving them the ability to communicate more effectively with political leaders who could help their cause. It's exponentially easier to understand a concept when communicating with one person rather than with a group of 10,000 frustrated people in the streets.

Under proper leadership, it's possible that what appeared to be riots, could have transformed into well orchestrated, peaceful protests that would have persuaded the rest of the country rather than turning the country off from the idea and the phrase completely.

I’m not disputing the need for a black lives matter movement. We as a country need to fundamentally change the way we treat people of color in terms of our policing and criminal justice system, as well as ensuring general equality. However, real social progress can only be effectively implemented with a strong combination of centralized, concrete goals and compelling leadership. For progress’ sake, I hope these changes can be made.