Black Lives Matter and Bernie Sanders – Part II

by Alan Eggleston

The more I look at this issue, the more interesting it becomes. The more questions it raises.

For instance:

  • Does Black Lives Matter as an organization oppose Bernie Sanders the person or Bernie Sanders the growing popular icon of White male progressivism?
  • Do the protesters from Black Lives Matter who disrupted Bernie Sanders in Seattle and other venues represent the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole or just themselves?
  • Does Black Lives Matter Seattle and Black Lives Matter Ohio, both very vocal and active groups opposing White progressive involvement in their movement represent the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole?

There is an interesting new dynamic apparent on the Black Lives Matter website, too. I urge you to visit and read it thoroughly. In addition to the website author’s interest in the risk to Black lives at the hands of the police, she expresses a sensitivity to Black transgender and cisgender or non-binary issues. (I wrote about transgender and cisgender issues late last year.) The transgender and cisgender community has become more vocal and more aggressive in fighting for their rights recently.

So consider this dynamic possibly at play: A group of people under attack and at risk for their lives because of the color of their skin that is also transgender or cisgender now also feels under attack and at risk for their lives because of their sexual orientation or lack of sexual orientation. Feeling that White progressives “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk,” they have given up on a traditional vocal ally, turning more radical to seek a solution on their own.

There are websites and blogs online reporting that Black Lives Matter organizations are refusing the help of Whites, refusing to allow Whites to participate in their demonstrations or even their meetings, refusing White journalists to cover their activities. Moreover, there are reports that Black Lives Matter organizations have demanded that other protest groups cancel or move protests that occur at the same time or place as those of Black Lives Matter, even when those other protests were planned earlier. The Black Lives Matter website seems to resent White male progressives and feel a sense of betrayal over a lack of their effort on behalf of Black lives.

So were the protests at Bernie Sanders’ speaking engagements an attempt to take control of the message at the events? Were they an attempt to send a message not to Bernie Sanders but to the White progressive movement? Do they come out of frustration with progressives who they view are vocal about the issues of Black lives but are not active in helping end the attacks? Is this the start of a new revolution similar to the Black Panther movement of the 1960s, a more radical and less patient attempt to revolt against racism and injustice in the wake of a society resistant to change?

I don’t pretend to know the answers to any of these questions. I don’t pretend to know the motives of those in the Black Lives Matter movement — or anyone’s motives, for that matter. But we need to figure this one out. If not to decide what our role should be in helping create a more just and equal society, certainly to decide whether we are culpable in keeping one from arising because we talk a lot but we don’t do a lot. And most especially, we need to clarify whether this movement represents a large group or a small one.

Bernie Sanders released a plan during his appearance in Portland, Oregon, Sunday to address Black Lives Matter concerns. One of the Seattle protesters noticed and seemed to think her protest had produced an effect. We will see if this furthers the conversation or if the protests continue.

In the meantime, White progressives and particularly we White male progressives would do well to consider just how much support we have provided to a Black community in fear for their lives and not only not seeing any progress in their lives but seeing past progress pushed back. What do we need to do more of to make their lives better?

Some additional reading on the Black Lives Matter issue:

(c) 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.



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