I must start with a disclaimer. I’m a white male, late twenties. I’ve done no official studies on race relations nor did I know much about Black Lives Matter (BLM) before writing this piece. I knew they existed and knew a little about what they fight for, but I had never read their material, seen their protests, or conversed with their active members. As I was challenged by a colleague to do an article on the extremists on the left, I decided to look into the claim that Black Lives Matter was a left-wing extremist organization. This piece summarizes my findings.
The Black Lives Matter movement is organized and structured, containing national and local leaders. It has an official agenda that is not anti-white or anti-law enforcement and has had many peaceful, political successes. It’s a powerful grassroots movement, but maintains prominent support from well-known public figures. Knowing all of this now, it seems there’s quite a bit of misinformation out there about Black Lives Matter. Here’s the reality.
The movement was started in 2013 by three black women named Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi. These women started the movement to act as an “ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” calling for “an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” The movement helps identify issues and attempts to influence political parties and American voters through official political means. The grassroots successes the group has achieved led to support from well-known public figures, to include direct contributions from celebrities such as The Weeknd, Kim Kardashian-West, John Legend, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, Lebron James, and Nick Cannon. This high visibility support led to the movement being able to influence mainstream American politics.
The official movement has had major, peaceful successes in recent years. They’ve gained the trust and ear of major political figures such as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and former President Obama. They’ve influenced University officials to admit to systemic racism present on their campuses and even helped get the resignation of University officials who failed to address said racism. They’ve also influenced state and local governments forcing them to acknowledge the fact that Confederate memorabilia can carry a negative, racist connotation, most notably getting the South Carolina statehouse to remove the Confederate battle flag from their grounds. These successes came through peaceful, official protest, not extremist violence. Their protests easily number in the thousands and dominate media coverage.
As a whole, the movement is estimated to have hundreds of thousands of members, and according to Pew research, about four in ten Americans support the movement. Although, of those familiar with the movement, about a third admitted they do not understand the movement’s goals. This is an issue the leadership of Black Lives Matter will be forced to address. Another issue they’ll be forced to address is the use of their name in vain.
Unfortunately, with a grassroots movement comes grassroots problems. As the Black Lives Matter movement rapidly grew in size fragmented individuals and groups in certain parts of the country became frustrated with the slow-moving progress the official political system makes. This frustration sometimes boils into extremist actions in which the Black Lives Matter title and slogan are used in vain.
In conclusion, there is no extremist movement called “Black Lives Matter.” There is a legitimate one though, working hard to peacefully and officially make America a better Land of the Free. Sure, there are some groups and individuals who vandalize and riot falsely claiming to be a part of the Black Lives Matter movement, but there’s also individuals walking around in out-of-regulation military uniforms claiming to be war heroes, who clearly aren’t.