I’ve always taken to heart the Theodore Roosevelt quote about how the man struggling valiantly in the arena deserves more credit than the critic sitting in the grandstands.
I hesitate to criticize the #BlackLivesMatter movement for the same reason I hesitated to criticize the Occupy Wall Street movement, because, whatever their flaws, they’re struggling valiantly in the arena and I’m the critic in the grandstands.
What both groups have in common is that they are protest movements, not political movements. They exist to call attention to injustice. They do not seek political power to correct injustice themselves. I do not criticize them for that.
I’m a liberal middle-class white man, and I am righteously indignant about the routine indignities and occasional mortal danger suffered by poor black people at the hands of police. But abusive police behavior is not something I think about all the time. #BlackLivesMatter keeps me from forgetting.
I’m not saying that all police are bad, or that white people are never mistreated by police. I’m saying that the threat of being mistreated or killed for no good reason by police is not something I have to consider in my daily life, and it is something that black people can’t afford to forget.
John Dewey once said that you don’t have to have the knowledge of a shoemaker to know that your shoe doesn’t fit. #BlackLivesMatter, unlike Occupy Wall Street, does have specific demands, but I think the movement’s importance is in never allowing the American public—the white American public—people like me—to forget how, so to speak, the shoe pinches poor black people.
Occupy Wall Street never had a formal organization, just people who wanted to join in, and the same is true of #BlackLivesMatter. It means that individuals can do whatever they see fit in the name of the movement, and there is no central authority with the power to tell them to stop.
The shutdown of Bernie Sanders’ speeches evidently was the action of a few individuals rather than a decision of the leadership. But, as a matter of strategy, it does make sense for a protest group to concentrate on those who might respond to their protest rather than those who most certainly won’t. Bernie Sanders did respond.
The best result #BlackLives Matter can hope for is that the powers that be respond to their protest. But so long as it is merely a protest movement, other people make the decision as to just what that response will be. Somebody else will have to take the responsibility for turning #BlackLivesMatter goals into law.
Who Really Runs #BlackLivesMatter? by Ben Collins for The Daily Beast.
Black Lives Matter and the Failure to Build a Movement by Douglas Williams for South Lawn.
Right Now #BlackLivesMatter Is Wasting Everybody’s Time by Oliver Willis.
How Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter taught us not to look away by Nicholas D. Mirzoeff for The Conversation.
Why BLM Protesters Can’t Behave by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.