Mark Twain is credited with coining the phrase, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Of course, the aphorism rings true regardless of who created it. For example, the condemnation of Black Lives Matter and its leaders is reminiscent of similar complaints that critics directed at the Civil Rights Movement and its leaders. (Dr. King’s enemies called him a “Marxist” — among other names.)
Indeed, the words and actions of anti-BLM “patriots” echo the pronouncements of “nationalists” who always claim to be defending their country from agitators, anarchists, communists, etc. Before Hitler rose to power in Germany, he directed his Sturmabteilung to foment violence in the streets. Then he would claim that only he could clean up the mess. Sound familiar?
Am I arguing that the enemies of BLM are all Nazis? No. But I am explicitly arguing that the propaganda in which they engage — and the white supremacy that they embrace (whether explicitly or latently) — is similar to Nazism.
What is now officially the “Black Lives Matter Global Network” was created in 2013 “in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer.” Irrespective of false narratives, BLM is centered on fighting the racism-fueled degradation, oppression and murder of Black people. Opponents of BLM cite certain statements from the organization’s website, including the following: “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families…” Another example is, “We foster a queer-affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking…” Critics also cite statements from some of BLM’s leaders, at least one of whom is a self-identified Marxist.
Such views run counter to the beliefs of most African Americans, especially older ones, who tend to be socially conservative. Still, BLM’s critics pretend not to understand that its supporters distinguish between the organization and the broader fight for Black equality. I am a political centrist and a Christian. Both characteristics more or less describe the majority of African Americans. While I don’t embrace every aspect of BLM as an organization, I fully support its mission to force America to recognize and to respect Black people as fully human. I have no patience for anyone who does not share that mission.
Further, roughly 50% of all Americans support BLM. No sane person argues that half of the population is Marxist. (Of course, sanity is in short supply in 2020.) The sad truth is that most of the people who are “concerned” about communism and socialism don’t even know the differences between the two ideologies. Their knowledge is limited to “communism (or socialism) is bad.”
Most importantly, this issue is much broader than politics. I cite my Jewish friends’ unwavering loyalty to Israel for comparison. Jewish people embrace Israel whether they are Democrats or Republicans, liberal or conservative, religious or non-religious, etc. Justice and equality are to Black people what Israel is to Jewish people.
When people (of whatever race) ask things like, “Why do (x) Black lives not matter?”, “What about the Blacks killed in Chicago?” — or when they criticize LeBron James for his activism — we know immediately that they don’t actually care about Black people. I’ll offer an analogy: Those whose mission is to fight breast cancer are not criticized for “ignoring” heart disease or for not fighting pancreatic cancer. Thus, critics of BLM are being obtuse and disingenuous. Further, white critics of BLM take refuge in a false sense of legitimacy because a handful of Black folks “cover” for them. If you value justice, you suggest positive changes to how freedom fighters approach their work. You don’t denigrate their cause.
If history demonstrates nothing else, it is that the majority of white Americans have never supported movements for racial and economic justice. For example, in 1966, Gallup conducted a poll regarding Dr. King’s favorability. His ratings were 33% “favorable” vs. 63% “unfavorable.” (Not coincidentally, the right wing accused him of starting riots while he claimed to be non-violent.)
Ultimately, it is neither BLM’s leadership nor its platform that causes so much anger among anti-BLM critics. It is the fact that BLM and its allies — of all races — are standing up for Black people. Even if BLM embraced the American flag, baseball and apple pie, the enemies of racial equality would still react with hatred. Dr. King would say the same thing — if he hadn’t been murdered by patriots.
Larry Smith is a community leader. Contact him at email@example.com.