Black Lives Matter started quite humbly as a hashtag written under a Facebook post in 2013, but due to the prevalence of social media, grew into a political movement and has 23 chapters in 3 countries. The prominence of the movement grew when riots started up in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. Though these riots weren’t sanctioned by the heads of the movement, the protesters use of the slogan and the nonsensical violence along with it cast a bad light onto the movement. At this time Black Lives Matter was attacked the most by the media, who really didn’t understand what the movement stands for. This led to (predominately white Republican) politicians attacking the movement and calling it something civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn’t approve of. For example, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said that the movement should change its name to “All Lives Matter” or “Innocent Lives Matter”, which broadens the spectrum of people and ideals the movement would then defend. But as I said before, Senator Paul’s comments among others show that most people, including the ones we elect to office understand the movement as much as the rioters that they decry. To sum it up, I think that Black Lives Matter is, and should be, a good thing, but it is largely misunderstood not only by those who protest it, but those who raise banners with its name.
Backing up this stance is one of the three founders of Black Lives Matter, Alicia Garza. Garza stated in response to the many iterations of Paul’s comment that “Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important–it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation”. In fact, the whole idea that white people of power, who themselves never experienced what the movement calls “a personification of oppression” (i.e., a black person’s skin color), are attempting to change the movement to not be exclusively black, shows some signs of white supremacy, exactly what Black Lives Matter is against.
Another heavy critique of Black Lives Matter is that it actually encourages the killing of police, and, subsequently that the killing of police is more prominent due to the movement. Addressing the first accusation, Black Lives Matter founders, as well as the organization, state they do not condone killing police or any other people of authority emphasizing that such acts would not solve any of the violence that is currently found in the police force. In fact, Campaign Zero, a movement not directly affiliated with Black Lives Matter, but one that has close ties, created ten policies that should be followed to not only protect free people, but the police as well. The second complaint that states that police killings are becoming more prominent because of the movement is as absurd as saying more black teens are killed in result of Black Lives Matter. In 2012, one year before the hashtag was created, and two since there was a true organization, there were 133 police on-duty deaths, the same number as there was in 2014 the same year of the Ferguson Riots. The whole idea that Black Lives Matter is an organization that supports police deaths is due to a minority of people who shout phrases such as “the pigs in a blanket” chant in Minnesota.
Right now, I see Black Lives matter as a movement that is misunderstood by both those who support it and by those who don’t. But I also see it as something with great potential to change the way black people are looked at not only by the police, but by people everywhere. Another quote from Black Lives Matter specifies this, “Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all black lives along the gender spectrum.” If Black Lives Matter can show people what the movement stands for (which they should be able to; their website launches in eight days) it can be very powerful, and show what the power of social media can do.