‘Whereas’ #BlackLivesMatter Did Not Accept Crumbs From the DNC’s Table

Demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 15, 2014, after the police killing of Michael Brown
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 15, 2014, after the police killing of Michael Brown
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The correct language is all there: white supremacy, “Black lives matter,” “Say her name,” a call to demilitarize police forces across the nation. Still, the Black Lives Matter network quickly distanced itself from a resolution recently released by the Democratic National Committee expressing solidarity with the larger movement for black lives that mobilized under the rallying cry created by BLM founders Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza.

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The DNC resolution reads in part:

Whereas, the Democratic Party believes in the American dream and the promise of liberty and justice for all, and we know that this dream is a nightmare for too many young people stripped of their dignity under the vestiges of slavery, Jim Crow and white supremacy; and

Whereas, we, the Democratic National Committee, have repeatedly called for race and justice—demilitarization of police, ending racial profiling, criminal-justice reform and investments in young people, families, and communities—after Trayvon Martin, after Michael Brown, after Tamir Rice, after Freddie Gray, after Sandra Bland, after Christian Taylor, after too many others lost in the unacceptable epidemic of extrajudicial killings of unarmed black men, women and children at the hands of police …

Therefore be it resolved that the DNC joins with Americans across the country in affirming “Black lives matter” and the “Say her name” efforts to make visible the pain of our fellow and sister Americans as they condemn extrajudicial killings of unarmed African-American men, women and children …

BLM’s response reads in part:

… Resolutions without concrete change are just business as usual. Promises are not policies. We demand freedom for Black bodies, justice for Black lives, safety for Black communities, and rights for Black people. We demand action, not words, from those who purport to stand with us.

While the Black Lives Matter [network] applauds political change towards making the world safer for Black life, our only endorsement goes to the protest movement we’ve built together with Black people nationwide—not the self-interested candidates, parties, or political machine seeking our vote.

Some may argue that this distancing is unnecessary, counterproductive even. I disagree. The DNC’s resolution screams reactionary, election-cycle pandering. You don’t tell black Americans you love them and expect them to show you they love you back. As Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor wrote for The Root, “In city halls across the country, elected officials in the Democratic Party have championed privatization and law-and-order policies that have contributed greatly to the hardships that dog black communities.”

This is primarily because the Democratic Party was historically the party of slavery and Jim Crow, pre-Nixon “Southern strategy.” And in many quarters, old habits die hard.

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Sometimes they even come repackaged as “progress.”

Before Democrats expressed solidarity with the struggle to save black lives from state-sanctioned violence, they should have first publicly acknowledged that they are architects of the blueprint that would be used for future generations to both undergird and re-create that violence in the most insidious of ways.

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This does not mean that the Republican Party is the right choice in a severely flawed two-party system; far from it. That first televised GOP presidential debate was akin to watching a group of men campaign to be the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan; so, no, it isn’t the answer.

This means we must indict the entire system.

In the past, some black activists might have quickly accepted from a political party verbal recognition not couched in lukewarm euphemisms but, rather, a long-overdue recognition that explicitly calls out systemic racism for the oppressive, debilitating force that it has always been and continues to be.

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This is a new day, though. And today the Democratic Party is recognized by many people as the good cop to the GOP’s bad cop. After generations of political paternalism and neglect, a party that houses Blue Dogs and Dixiecrats is going to have to do a lot more than shake its collective “whereas” in the faces of marginalized communities if it expects our support.

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