The Ideological Problem with Black Lives Matter

by Sapna Rampersaud

In seeking to rectify America’s historical oppression of African Americans, the movement advocates racial exclusion.

The Black Lives Matter movement (BLM), whose mission is to affirm “Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression,” has a flawed ideology of reparatory racial exclusion that is clearly illustrated in Lisa Durden’s interview on Fox News.

Earlier this month, Durden, a professor of media and effective speech at a New Jersey community college, made a televised appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, where she defended BLM’s decision to preclude people who do not identify as black from attending a Memorial Day celebration organized by the movement. Carlson began the interview by reading an excerpt from a statement disseminated by BLM regarding the controversy:

Being intentional about being around Black People is an act of resistance. This is an exclusively Black Space so if you do not identify as Black and want to come because you love Black People, please respect the space and do not come.

“I’m confused by that,” the host followed up, “because I thought the whole point of Black Lives Matter . . . would be to speak out against singling people out on the basis of their race and punishing them for that, because you can’t control what your race is, and yet they seem to be doing that. Explain that to me.”

“What I say to that is boo hoo hoo,” Durden shot back. “You white people are angry because you couldn’t use your white-privilege card to get invited to the Black Lives Matter’s all-black Memorial Day celebration.”

While BLM tries to raise awareness of the segregation and racial exclusion that blacks have faced throughout history, Durden’s comment suggests that the movement is now trying to enforce the same exclusion on whites. The Memorial Day event may have excluded people of other races in order to collectivize blacks and give them a “voice,” but this voice is a racist, rather than reasonable, one.

Durden went on to argue that it’s okay to exclude white people from Memorial Day celebrations because “we have gay-pride parades, we have Puerto Rican Day parades, we have all kinds of parades and days that honor individuals. We have Mother’s Day, we have Father’s Day, so on Mother’s Day just take your momma out, not your daddy out.” Last time I checked, though, straight people could attend gay-pride parades, non–Puerto Ricans could attend Puerto Rican Day parades, fathers could be celebrated on Mother’s Day, and mothers could be celebrated on Father’s Day.

Durden’s comments, as misguided as I think they are, are clearly a response to the years of oppression that black people have experienced in America. But this is the wrong way to rectify the shameful treatment of African Americans throughout our nation’s history and the sad legacy it has left. If we collectively discourage, rather than encourage, racial discrimination, the systemic disadvantages that blacks continue to face will wither away. Durden and her ilk, by choosing the opposite path, can only set back the cause of racial progress.

Carlson, to his credit, pointed out as much, calling Durden “hostile,” “separatist,” and an “apologist” for the BLM movement in their interview, before summing up her stance quite neatly: “I don’t care [about] your opinions, I don’t care [about] your views, your life experience, your intentions. All I care about is the way you look, something that you can’t control, and on that basis alone I’m judging you and I’m hostile to you.”

As someone of color whose great-grandparents were brought over to Guyana from India and forced into indentured servitude by the British, I am appalled that people with similar histories (and even those without them) in this generation think it’s a good idea to return to those days of exclusion and segregation. I’ve never felt that, because I was the only non-white person in a class, program, friend group, or job, that I was any less or any different, let alone that it would be wise or desirable to exclude those of other races so I could have a “day to myself” that enhanced my “voice.” I fully understand the impulse, of course, given the historic oppression that African Americans have suffered. But when BLM actively decides to promote the same kind of oppression in reverse, it is both counter-productive and disgusting.

— Sapna Rampersaud is an editorial intern at National Review and studies government, history, and French at Harvard University.