Nobody can speak for the whole BLM movement

Letter to the Editor from Rob Matthews, St Clement.

  Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31218349)
Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31218349)

I REGRET not having had chance to respond earlier to Tom Ogg’s article (JEP 19 June). Mr Ogg should know that no individual speaks for the Black Lives Matter movement because it is not, contrary to the main premise of his article, one organisation. It is a movement which includes a series of separate organisations which have been set up in different countries.

Nobody, not even Patrisse Cullors, can speak for the whole movement. She was one of the organisers of the US Black Lives Matter organisation and her comments, in 2015, would appear to be the sole foundation to the claim that she and some other Black Lives Matter leaders were Marxists.

Her utterance that she and other organisers were ‘Marxist by training’ (whatever that may have meant) has been used to give justification to the accusation that the whole Black Lives Matter movement is Marxist. The movement may well contain Marxists in the same way as it may contain individuals or organisers who are vegans, anti-vaxers or Methodists. Some of its supporters and some of its activists may be criminals but, as we know, that may also be true of the Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties or the Ramblers Association.

Some of its supporters and some of its activists may advocate political aims which are not shared by the rest of the membership but, in as far as it wants black people’s lives to be given a value equal to those of white people, Black Lives Matter is a single-issue organisation. And if, by achieving this equality in the value of black and white lives, it would somehow undermine capitalist society then what are we saying about capitalist society?

The one coherent thing about the Black Lives Matter movement is the slogan; ‘Black Lives Matter’. Bearing in mind the number of recorded and corroborated instances of shocking treatment, historically and recently, of non-white people in countries such as the US and UK, the choice of response from non-racist white people to Black Lives Matter should only be between whether or not to actively support Black Lives Matter. Why would anyone with any sense of justice choose instead to resist it?

Among the shameful iniquities between white and black people is the fact that a disproportionate number of black people die in custody in the UK and in the US. It is, therefore, reasonable to remind those who are directly or indirectly responsible for this shame that ‘Black Lives Matter’. And, yes, all lives do matter but it is irrelevant to say so in this context. In the same way that it is OK to express the wish for someone who is unwell to, ‘Get well soon’, but, to say, ‘Everybody should be well soon’ is superfluous and irrelevant.

Campaign slogans need to be focused. The ‘Votes for Women’ slogan was used by the suffragettes because its simple wording described the aims of the campaign for women to have equal voting rights to those of men. ‘Votes for Everyone’ does not focus on the main impediment (at the time) to ‘Votes for Everyone’ because it does not focus on the need for votes for women.

But I think that many of the people who are so angered by Black Lives Matter understand this. So you have to wonder why 20% of people in the UK (no figures for Jersey) push back against the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’. Is this 20% of people racist?

I would answer that many of them are. Though I have noticed that, when I challenge those who push back against Black Lives Matter, they often respond with ‘I’m not racist but…’. Even if I offend some or all of this growing minority, I am going to continue to say, ‘Black Lives Matter’. And if some people think that I am a jumping-on-the-band-wagon, lefty, woke, cry-baby then there is probably little I can do to change their minds.

There will also be those who haven’t yet given serious thought to the issue of racial injustice. Such people might be surprised when they observe the simple act, particularly if this is by a white person, of someone saying or writing the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ (or even, should the opportunity arise, taking the knee). This may inspire some serious thought. It might draw their attention to the issue of racial injustice. It might encourage them to consider, without prejudice, the key, shameful injustice that, in the 21st century, black lives are not valued by some authorities in some countries as highly as those of white people. Some individuals might also feel compelled, as I do, to push back against those who push back against Black Lives Matter. I hope so.

5 Beaufort Square, Plat Douet Road, St Clement.

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