Why Black Lives Matter is effective
Last week a defective part on the washer in my unit broke, flooding my bathroom, the downstairs neighbor's unit and her garage. The good folks at Samsung were kind enough to fix the manufacturer's defect, as well as cut a check for all damages that resulted from said flood. Pretty much everyone can agree that this was the right thing for Samsung to do and that it would have been a dick move for Samsung to have instead said, "We fixed the part — stop complaining and clean up the mess."
What happens when a nation's defective policies result in catastrophic damage to a community? In the case of America, the answer is the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The nation refuses to fully correct the issue of police brutality and discrimination against people of color. It is indignant towards people pointing out the ripples in the pond created by the rock that is racism, rather than recognizing that things begin and end with the pebble.
Black Lives Matter is necessary and effective for many of the same reasons that some think that Black Lives Matter is ultimately doomed to fail.
Change in America comes through political influence. Political influence is gained by two means: money and noise (Sorry, Obama). Black lives may not matter, but the black vote does. Because of this, BLM is forcing politicians to propose real plans to address racial injustice in America as opposed to the usual mindless and insincere pandering done at rallies and NAACP events.
The group is becoming notorious for hijacking political rallies, replacing the expected crowd of cheerleaders with those who ask real questions and expect real answers. In a somewhat recent example of bold power plays, two BLM activists took over the stage at a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle. Sanders later characterized their actions as “unfortunate,” going on to say that he had planned on addressing the issues of Black Lives but was denied the opportunity. When this was pointed out to Marissa Johnson, one of the two protesters, during an MSNBC interview, Johnson said she did not regret the stage takeover. “Bernie Sanders had several weeks to address Black Lives Matter,” Johnson said, and went on to also say that she wasn't interested in talk as much as she was in “concrete platforms, concrete policies.”
This act angered many, including those that support BLM. I paused at the notion myself. However, Johnson had a point that probably would not have been heard nor addressed had BLM not stormed that stage. Bernie Sanders said in his post-rally interview that he wants to address BLM but “there are other things to talk about.” I feel the Bern, but that is a serious cop out. According to MSNBC, he went on to release the racial justice platform. Again, unapologetic boldness gets results.
Black Lives has managed to hijack the nation's media and politicians and force Americans to have unpleasant but necessary conversations about race. A search of BLM on google will get you 65 million hits, 14 million if you only search "news." BLM is becoming a media juggernaut and yet with all of this attention, it is the movement and not its founders or any one figurehead who come to mind when you think of the BLM. This is a huge strength.
These methods have put questionable law enforcement practices under more scrutiny than ever. Black Lives has been instrumental in putting America's policing of the black community under the microscope of media and forcing law enforcement to consider sweeping changes, holding poorly preforming officers accountable where they had not been before.
Alabama police officer Aaron Smith was arrested and charged with murder in connection with the death of 58-year-old Gregory Gunn last February. At the time of his death, Gunn was walking to his own home, had committed no crime and was unarmed.
This past February, former NYPD officer Peter Liang was convicted of manslaughter after a trial in which his own partner testified against him. Liang shot and killed a man during a routine patrol in which the victim, Akai Gurley, was simply walking down the stairs. The officer involved with the arrest of Sandra Bland was also fired. All of this screams pressure and there is no question that BLM is applying it.
What's better is that the pressure is collective, and not asserted by one particular dominant figure. Leaders make for good targets. A scandal can easily take them down and thus weaken the movement. It's even possible that a leader could get the 1960s civil rights extermination treatment. It is said that if you remove a head, you kill the body. With no one person to go after, one has no easy means by which to end this movement.
BLM is not a group of people but an idea that resonates. The reason that BLM has staying power with so many across all cultures despite the appearance of a non-existent leadership and lack of clear vision is that the most important part of the struggle — the end goal in fact — lies in the title, "Black Lives Matter".
Black America appreciates the reforms gained thus far. It understands that not everybody has personally caused harm but the actions of some present have caused damage that goes beyond defective policy and requires a collective effort to address fully. But if Black America doesn't stand up for itself, then no one else will. If it isn't loud and bold in its pursuit of racial equality and justice, then black lives in America will never matter. So, until America gets over its confusion about who should pay for the damage caused by America's defective polices, I hope and believe that Black Lives Matter will stay around to stir the pot.