More than 100 days into a Donald Trump presidency, it has become clear that his campaign promises have transformed into discriminatory public policies, and with an attorney general and a Justice Department focused on championing police while simultaneously criminalizing protest and political criticism, it is important that our greatest resistance movement change with the times.
For Black Lives Matter, that means entering a new phase, one that, according to the Washington Post, is more focused on policy than on protest in the age of Trump. This shift in focus and tactics has the bonus effect of going further to debunk the myths and misconceptions about the origins, purpose and beliefs of Black Lives Matter and those in the movement.
In a recent visit to the University of California, Santa Barbara, BLM co-founder Alicia Garza discussed and debunked three of the biggest and most damaging misconceptions about the organization and movement.
From the Daily Nexus:
Garza also outlined three “myths” of BLM: the notions that it is anti-police, anti-white and black supremacy.
Garza said the movement is not anti-police, but, rather, it is against the perpetuation of cycles of violence. She said she believes the cycle will end when someone is courageous enough to say that the institutions and systems in place “are not working.”
Garza said she wanted the audience to leave thinking about “the ways we want to create movement and the ways we establish power.”
She said the U.S. needs “really courageous white people” to realize white supremacy does exist, adding that economic struggles are national concerns.
“White folks need this movement,” she said. “They’re being fed a lie, too.”
Garza also said, “Black Lives Matter started as a love note to black people, but it is a demand and a call to action.”
According to what Garza told the Post, that action involves effecting change thr0ugh community organizing.
“What people are seeing is that there are less demonstrations,” Garza said. “A lot of that is that people are channeling their energy into organizing locally, recognizing that in Trump’s America, our communities are under direct attack.”
From the Post:
The issue that galvanized the movement hasn’t subsided. So far in 2017, police have shot and killed 23 unarmed people, a higher rate than in 2016, when 48 unarmed people were killed all year. Both years, about one in three of those people has been black.
Activists say they’re no less aware of those statistics than in years past. But like most of the political left, they were stunned by Trump’s electoral victory in November, and in the months since, they’ve grappled with the role of an anti-racism movement at a time when political threats to other groups—immigrants, Muslims and women—have gained urgency and pushed more progressives into the streets in protest.
In interviews, more than half a dozen leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement said that last year’s election prompted renewed focus on supporting other minority groups as well as amassing electoral power to fight an administration that has pledged to roll back Obama-era efforts to reshape policing practices with a Justice Department that is “the leading advocate for law enforcement in America,” as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has put it. Those leaders—who hail from various factions of the decentralized movement of individuals and organizations that have, at times, clashed—said the reality of Trump’s presidency has forced a reconsideration of strategy.
Asha Rosa, national organizing co-chair for the Black Youth Project 100, told the Post, “There was a lot of regrouping that had to happen within our movement and on the broader left to really think strategically.”
Stephen Zunus, a University of San Francisco professor who studies social movements, told the Post that Black Lives Matter’s transition from street protests to policy is not unusual, and it’s through such work that a movement’s priorities—like mandatory use of officer body cameras—can become national standards.
“That’s actually the way effective social movements often work or behave,” Zunus said, pointing to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in the wake of the financial crisis as a counterexample. “What the Occupy people did not learn—or by and large do—is go do the lobbying, the organizing, to make change happen. They wound up fetishizing the ‘occupy’ part, and then, by and large, it fizzled.”
“Activism looks like a lot of different things: It can look like voting, it can look like protest, it can look like calling your representatives,” Aditi Juneja, a law student who works with Campaign Zero, told the Post. “The question shouldn’t be ‘Will this activism be sustained?’ because for many people the work is very personal and it isn’t going to stop. The question is how it will sustain and how it will continue to manifest.”