OPINION: The Case Against The Organization Which Is Known As “Black Lives Matter”

As a journalist, a crucially necessary, if not sufficient tool of the trade is the faculty of skepticism in conjunction with criticism.

It is my firm and unyielding belief that not only is no institution above criticism (including and especially barbed criticism) but that any organization or institute that holds itself as above and immune to criticism, almost by definition demands unkind scrutiny from a less than timid and polite observer.

This dictum needs to be applied with doubled and perhaps tripled force on the issue of the organization known as Black Lives Matter. One thing to make clear (or as clear as I can make it) right away is my very specific phrasing here of “the organization known as Black Lives Matter”. We have been sold a rather ridiculous bill of goods by race-baiters such as Ibram Kendi and Robin DiAngelo that any criticism of the doctrine or methods of Black Lives Matter is automatically conflated with racism towards blacks as people. Now, this is a flame of moral and intellectual confusion that has caressed the hills and began its descent upon our sleepy little Hamlet with alarming intensity.

My phrasing of “the organization known as…” is supposed to sharpen the already self-evident point that I am criticizing (much like Islam) an organization (or perhaps a loose ideology) and not a people or an ethnic group as such.

This moral blackmail has, in most cases, immunized the organization known as Black Lives Matter against any sort of criticism, as pundits and commentators would have to endlessly (and unfairly) beat back charges of racism from chattering ideologues.

Even in private discussions, away from the unforgiving memory of the online news outlets, I have been extremely impressed by the torrent of bad faith in which I am immediately doused whenever I find fault with BLM. My criticisms of the “mostly peaceful” protests/riots are met with unkind cynicism and the perennially smug retort of “do you not think black lives matter?’.

Well, now it’s, as it were, my turn, in print and I’ll give it my best shot.

The organization known as Black Lives Matter is at best wrongheaded, and at worst, harm-doing.

There is, first and foremost, BLM’s insipid ethic of appealing to identity politics and one’s immutable characteristics as if those traits were, in and of themselves, values. The words “Marxist” and “neo-marxism” are thrown around a lot and often by people who do not know what either of those words really mean, but there is a definite smack of neo-Marxist sentiment with Black Lives Matters. This won’t be surprising, as one of BLM’s founders, Patrisse Cullors has described herself and fellow Co-founder Alicia Garza as “trained Marxists“.

Neo-Marxism, I think is a more than acceptable descriptor regarding Black Lives Matter as they do separate out (in unforgiving terms) the oppressors and the oppressed. If you’re white, you are an oppressor, nothing more. If you’re black, you’re oppressed, nothing more. That is the extent of your moral worth and utility in society as far as Black Lives Matter is concerned.

This moral confusion of judging and reasoning from one’s immutable characteristics, I think shows a rather low and parochial mode of thought which acts as an antidote to reasoning and critical thinking.

My quick thoughts on identity politics are that you are reasoning on the basis of skin color, or religion, or gender, or some particular trait, which you fell into through no process of reasoning on your own, you couldn’t be convinced to be white or black — and to reason from that place as though, because you’re you, because you have the skin color you have, certain things are true and very likely incommunicable or unassimilable to other people who don’t share your identity.

I view this as (to borrow a phrase from Sam Harris) the most unhappy game of Dungeons and Dragons ever. People have these various stories of victimology that if you do the arithmetic one way, one group trumps another. Another way it gets reversed. This strikes me as a moral and political and intellectual dead end because the things that are really true, the things that will really move the dial with respect to human wellbeing — I view my intellectual and polemical life as being totally committed to amplifying good ideas and criticizing bad ideas, insofar as they relate to the most important swings of human wellbeing.

My concern is, “how can the future be better than the past? How can we get to a world where we cancel the worst effects of bad luck, given that some people are hugely lucky and some people aren’t? How can we cancel this, with respect to wealth and health and everything else? How can we get to a world where the maximum number of people thrive?”.

I view identity politics as among the worst pieces of software you can be running to try to get there. I want to get to a world where we align with Martin Luther King’s claim about the content of your character, rather than the color of your skin. That is the goal, and if you want to reverse engineer that goal, giving primacy to identity is one of the worst things you can do. That is, plain and simply, how I would frame it.

There is also, I think an issue with the, let’s call it “focus” of the campaign of the organization known as Black Lives Matter. Beginning with a quick and easy thought experiment: BLM has published on its website a list of demands.

If I was to challenge you to summon in your mind your best guess of what BLM’s number one demand was, what would you say? A plea for racial equality? Perhaps a proposed policy prescription for police reform? Nope.

The number one demand on BLM’s website is to…” Convict and ban Trump from future political office“. This should and, in fact, does, stand as its own answer to those bad-faith actors that tell you (usually while thumbing their noses) that BLM isn’t concerned with politics.

Moving right along, I think I want to step back and simply act as an uninventive (but hopefully authoritative) mouthpiece for some intellectuals more well-versed than myself. It should, and in fact doesn’t matter, but the sandbox of identity politics that BLM and its flock demand I play in forces me to mention that these two gentlemen happen to be black.

John McWhorter, an American linguist and associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University has been critical of BLM as well. He makes the case, which I have put myself in various debates that if BLM wants to truly concern itself with issues of race and inequity in America, it should concern itself with black-on-black crime.

As McWhorter put it in an enlightening interview with The Atlantic, “The reason Black Lives Matter has a lot of eyes rolling is not because people don’t care about black people and don’t understand the problem with police. The problem is that the typical black man in a particular kind of community is at much, much more risk of being killed by another black man. And you can’t argue it away. There are all these sophisticated feints such as saying that there’s a difference between the state murdering and citizens murdering. But none of it goes through.

This high indignation about one white cop doing a terrible thing looks incongruous given that in these same communities, hundreds of black men are killing each other every summer. And so I think, in short, Black Lives Matter is very important. It could make a very important difference in modern black history. But for it to be a movement that resonates historically, it has to add a new wing where it firmly says and stands behind the idea that black lives matter when black people take them too.

There has to be a second wing that goes into black communities and works in a real way on the black-on-black murders. That would make Black Lives Matter complete. As it is now, it’s incomplete and it looks shrill. And the idea that Black Lives Matter when white people try to take them looks recreational, it looks childish, it looks peevish, and it’s just wrong, it’s incomplete. That’s my take on Black Lives Matter.”

I say, bravo Professor McWhorter, that’s the stuff to give them!

The next words of wisdom on offer come to us in the intelligible and lucid form of Glenn Loury. Professor Loury is an economist and professor at Brown University and, like McWhorter, has contributed immensely and immeasurably to the public discourse on race and race relations in America. Here, Loury sharpens (perhaps by accident) the idea of “All Lives Matter”. His thoughts would be my own. That the purpose of “All Lives Matter” isn’t to contest or negate any ethical or moral claims laid out by “Black Lives Matter”, but to transcend and build upon those values.

In an Op-Ed written for the Brown Daily Herald, Loury says, “We may be but a short step from having to endure public exhibitions where “black criminals” are said to have preyed upon “white victims” — as with the infamous Willie Horton incident from the 1988 presidential campaign. This is not a tendency favoring the interests of black Americans over the longer run. So much should be obvious. Moreover, we cannot count on adherence to the restraints of political correctness to protect us from such an eventuality, as outrageous remarks issuing daily from a certain Republican presidential candidate would seem to attest. In my view, risking such a racial backlash is completely unnecessary. After all, twice as many whites as blacks are killed by police officers in this country every year. We blacks may be at a greater actuarial risk, and racism may yet be alive and well in some quarters of American law enforcement. But unaccountable police violence against citizens happens to people of all races, and it diminishes every American citizen, whether victimized or not. Thus, a movement defining itself in opposition to police violence need not be framed primarily in racial terms. That may be how one comes to start such a movement. But it ought not to be how one aims to build and to sustain it.

In summary, I continue to believe that, while race remains important in America, the core problem here ought not to be defined as a racial justice problem. It is a social justice problem. And the key to solving it, ultimately, is not by means of a mobilization on behalf of black lives. Rather, lasting solutions will come, if at all, only via a movement that successfully affirms the value of all lives. I realize that, at this critical moment, these are loaded words. I use them because I am convinced that lasting progress requires the successful marshaling of voting majorities on behalf of well-defined legislative policy goals that, once achieved, will have had the effect of transforming the lives of all Americans.”

So, these are (part of) my criticisms of the organization known as Black Lives Matter. The rest of my thoughts might well be expounded on in a later piece.

I am incredibly grateful to you, dear reader, for taking the time to read this and for (I will assume) coming into my humble polemic with an open and intellectually charitable mind.

Now, I would like to hear from you. Do you feel that my criticisms are justified? Am I completely off the mark? Please leave comments below. Thank you!

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