What is Black Lives Matter?
Yesterday, I heard from a number of Evangelicals who would answer the question like this: It’s a peaceful movement of men and women who aren’t saying that only black lives matter but rather reminding a nation still burdened by the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and persistent reality of contemporary discrimination that black lives also matter — that black men and women should be treated with equal dignity in every quarter of American life, including by law enforcement.
This version of Black Lives Matter wants transparency, accountability, and assurances that police abuse and violence will be fairly and impartially investigated — not swept under the rug by the “blue wall of silence.” This version of Black Lives Matter seeks basic police reforms — such as body cameras, ending stop-and-frisk, or retraining police on de-escalation measures — that it believes will go a long way toward easing existing tensions between the police and the black community.
Whether it is right or wrong, this version of Black Lives Matter is reasonable, peaceful, and worth engaging on the merits of their proposals. But that’s not the only version of Black Lives Matter. Existing side-by-side with the millions of Americans who express the sentiments above is an extraordinarily radical organization, along with a persistent strain of violence that — if present at conservative events such as tea-party rallies or pro-life vigils — would completely discredit the movement. Just consider the last five days:
‐In Dallas, a black terrorist opens fire on police, killing five in the worst police massacre since 9/11.
‐In Tennessee, a black man who claimed to be motivated by “police violence against African Americans” opened fire on a highway, killing a woman and injuring three others — including a police officer.
‐In Missouri, a black motorist ambushed a white police officer after a traffic stop — shooting the officer in the neck and leaving him “fighting for his life.”
‐Also in Missouri, a young black man threw a planter through the front door of an off-duty police officer’s home and advanced into the house while the officer’s wife, mother-in-law, and young children tried to escape through a back window. The officer opened fire and killed the intruder. He apparently targeted the home after an online argument over Black Lives Matter.
‐In Minnesota, Black Lives Matter protesters attacked police with “rocks, bottles, and other items,” injuring 21 — including an officer who suffered a broken vertebra “after a concrete block was dropped on his head.”
This is a partial list, not counting lawless protests that blocked interstates, bridges, and other roads across the United States, creating a number of inherently dangerous confrontations between protesters, motorists, and the police. And — again — it’s a partial list from the last week only. Extend the time horizon and the killings increase, the violent protests increase, and the incidents of chants calling for violence multiply.
And consider the Black Lives Matter organization itself. Its website is a grab-bag collection of unthinking radicalism and cultural Marxism. Want to know what Black Lives Matter thinks about the nuclear family? Consider its statement on so-called Black Villages:
We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.
Do you want a nuanced and careful response to the problem of high crime rates in black communities and the problem of mass incarceration? Don’t go to Black Lives Matter — It believes that “2.8 million Black people are locked in cages in this country is state violence.” Then there’s this incredible statement about gender and sexuality:
Black queer and trans folks bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us, and that is state violence.
Or there’s this statement about black people with disabilities:
Black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy, and that is state violence.
What? American governments are conducting heinous experiments on African Americans with disabilities? This is either an academic nonsense-critique of the standard ways that American society tries to accommodate people with disabilities or next-level conspiracy theorizing.
So I ask again. What is Black Lives Matter?
#share#Conservatives — especially academic conservatives — are accustomed to a form of argument called “motte-and-bailey.” Based on an old form of community fortification, the “bailey” is the pleasant place where people work. The “motte” is the strong place they retreat to when attacked. Applied to argument, the bailey represents your expansive, desired idea. The motte is the idea you retreat to when attacked. When you repel the attack, then you go back out to your bailey — making the same arguments you couldn’t defend earlier.
Black Lives Matter has been playing a double game.
Campus feminists are the masters (mistresses?) of the form. With one breath they’ll declare that feminism means smashing the patriarchy, blasting apart gender norms, and celebrating lesbianism (that’s the bailey), and then when they’re challenged on their extremism, they’ll retreat to the motte of claiming that “feminism is just the belief that women are equal.” In other words, they take extreme positions, retreat to moderation to bolster credibility, then go right back to the extreme when the pressure eases.
Black Lives Matters radicals have perfected the art. They advance narratives every bit as inflammatory as the worst white-nationalist rhetoric — repeating known lies such as it’s “open season” on black men or “hands up, don’t shoot” — and they aggressively launch lawless protests, excuse (and sometimes foment) violence, and traffic in conspiracy theories. Last year — in the middle of the Baltimore riots — Ta-Nehisi Coates, a National Book Award winner and perhaps the most admired black writer in the United States, said this:
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.
But now — as the violence escalates — Black Lives Matter is really about peace and justice. It’s really just about declaring that black people should be treated with dignity and respect. No one should judge the many by the actions of the few, right?
#related#In reality, Black Lives Matter has been playing a double game. It harbors, shelters, and empowers true radicals, people who not only have no problem seeing our cities burn, they’re also fanning the flames. Yet it also counts as sympathizers the millions more who want no part of riots or police shootings. The moderates, however, can’t purge the radicals because the radicals run the organization. They provide the energy, the activists, and the day-to-day protests. The moderates, by contrast, rarely turn out, and when they do, they don’t even understand the organization they support or know the voices they’re truly magnifying.
If the moderates can’t seize control — if they can’t dominate not just the narrative but the organizational apparatus itself — then Black Lives Matter will continue to be a destructive force in national life, incalculably aided by the support of millions who join with it in moments of crisis — chanting its slogans, filling its coffers, enhancing its influence, and unwittingly helping to push America one step closer to 1968.