Since the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis MN, organizations from high tech to leisure to educational have endorsed the Black Lives Matter organization. Orange County Breeze has received news releases publicizing such endorsements that include praise of the organization and sometimes an announcement of monetary donations to particular chapters such as Black Lives Matter LA.
Endorsing the agenda of the Black Lives Matter organization is distinct from believing that the lives of Black people are valued — but that often gets lost in yelling and fist-pumping and sign-waving. Try countering a chant of “Black lives matter!” with “All lives matter!” You will most likely get shouted down.
For self-education, I visited the BLM organization’s website to read “What We Believe” so that I could decide whether I could agree, or agree to disagree. The full text of the web page is at the end of this article.
(I discovered that I am not alone in visiting the Black Lives Matter website and pondering its stated agenda.)
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I write from the perspective of conservative Christian Constitutionalism. My technical background is in engineering, a discipline not known to be open to talking a badly designed bridge out of shaking to pieces. Know that ahead of time, so hair-triggers may be set aside and room granted for discussion.
Also, I fear that the meaning of words may be, as The Doctor might say, wibbly wobbly. We may share the same alphabet, and some of the words may appear to be spelled identically, but these identically-spelled words hide semantic trench warfare. In this regard, I can only admit that I don’t have a map of the minefield as I crawl from my bunker to attempt to meet on neutral ground to talk. Don’t shoot me for using the wrong word in the wrong way. Agreeing on terms is an important part of meaningful discussion.
If you want to skip the discussion — I hope you don’t — my decision on whether I can agree with the agenda of Black Lives Matter is just above the text of the organization’s statement of belief at the end of this article.
I have no argument against this statement. As a matter of self-organization and self-protection, it is actually conservative and American in its roots and activism. It is utterly American to identify a problem, then self-organize to address the problem. Read de Tocqueville.
This American trait is itself an outgrowth of Anglo-American heritage and common law, and is part of the fabric of the American Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, which includes the Bill of Rights as its first ten amendments.
I have no argument against this statement, except insofar as the worldview leans towards Us vs. Them, reducing all of life to a power struggle. If all of life is merely a power struggle, then to hell with it.
I do not agree with forcing everything into a power-struggle pattern, whether it’s the class struggle of Karl Marx or the plebs against the grandi of Machiavelli’s Renaissance Italian city-states or George Orwell’s Oceania against its own citizens or the Haves contra the Have-nots of Saul Alinsky’s radicals and their heirs. Too often class struggle corrodes into violence, and collapses into totalitarianism. Marx and Machiavelli and Orwell and Alinsky assume that life is politics and politics at all times and in all ways is a zero-sum game.
The American founding, if it is to continue, must knock that assumption on its (cough) posterior.
The genius of the American founding was to provide a space for every free person to follow his own star. The failure of the American founding was to grant chattel slavery a place to fester.
(Language note: please read “his” in the traditional inclusive manner, holding its arms wide to encompass everyone. Imposing invented pronouns uglifies English and confuses readers not up-to-date on the latest genderspeak. The third person plural pronoun “their” has risen to fill the non-gendered void, but has not yet elbowed aside she/he/it.)
It is a tragedy of historic proportions that Southern slaveholders, given the space and time and freedom to do the right thing, failed. It is a triumph of historic proportions that Abraham Lincoln held the United States together to forge in fire and blood a new and stronger union.
Civil rights protests a century after the Civil War consolidated advances that, prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, were paper victories only. Advances for people of color followed, but present-day events and protests serve to show that much work remains.
Acknowledge the advances before yelling about how much further we must be dragged. I am not my great-grandfather, and neither are you.
Again, I object to the deliberate narrowing of the scope to a zero-sum power struggle. If you cannot see yourself as part of the Pluribus that make up the Unum in the United States, a long-term peaceful solution will prove slippery. If you are not interested in a long-term peaceful solution, then we are quarreling towards different ends and I will crawl back to my trench.
(For those struggling with the italicized references, E Pluribus Unum is the motto of the United States. The Founders were big on grounding their efforts in Classical Western history and philosophy. They loved Latin and Greek. In this case, the Latin phrase translates as “Out of many, one” and refers to the founding of a single federal republic out of the thirteen originally independent colonies. It can and often is taken to refer to forming a single American people out of immigrants from around the world, an endearing and enduring American characteristic.)
On the topic of identitarian politics, I look forward to reading The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics is Dividing the Land of the Free by Mike Gonzalez, coming out next month.
For those who have lost track:
- Feb. 26, 2012: Trayvon Martin, a Black 17-year-old male, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a mixed-race 28-year-old male. Martin was unarmed. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and acquitted. Media coverage attempted to paper over Zimmerman’s Hispanic ethnicity, the better to use him as another example of White Men Acting Badly. (Zimmerman’s father was White, his mother Hispanic.)
- Aug. 9, 2014: Michael Brown Jr., a Black 18-year-old male, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a police officer in Ferguson MO. A grand jury investigation ruled that Officer Wilson shot Brown in self-defense. A federal investigation concluded that Wilson did not violate Brown’s civil rights. Wilson was never charged. A related federal Department of Justice investigation of the Ferguson Police Department concluded that the Department routinely violated the rights of Ferguson’s citizens. This is the case that spawned the chant “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
- Power U, a South Florida organization working to develop leadership skills of Black and Brown youth.
- Dream Defenders, “the next generation of revolutionaries,” is also based in Florida with ambitions to open affiliated chapters (squadds) nationwide.
From the viewpoint of a Sympathetic But Weary White Person™ (SBWWP), Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are blemished Indict Whitey cases. Repeatedly dredging them up punches a bruise but does not advance the cause.
Zimmerman is mixed race, not pure white and not a police officer.
Evidence collected during the Ferguson investigations supported the officer’s version of events, not the innocence of Michael Brown.
However, the Ferguson Police Department was rightly smacked with a consent decree that requires independent assessment of progress. The latest status report was on June 4, United States District Judge Catherine D. Perry presiding. Representatives of the independent monitor, the US Department of Justice, and the City of Ferguson reported.
The SBWWP can read the transcript of the June 4 (virtual) meeting and conclude that the City of Ferguson and the Ferguson Police Department are trying, but events outside their control — the pandemic, racially-charged incidents elsewhere — are complicating and slowing the process.
If “Ferguson” stretches beyond the death of Michael Brown Jr. at the hands of FPD Officer Darren Wilson to embrace the overhaul of the City and its Police Department under the federal consent decree, I have no argument with this.
However, I would object if the effort slumps into knee-jerk prejudice in the opposite direction.
Most Whites may be less ignorant of daily burdens on Blacks than before George Floyd was killed. Further educating them truly does not require burning down a Wendy’s franchise.
Something I deeply regret about the death of Rayshard Brooks during a drunken confrontation with two Atlanta Police officers is that we can never get his version. He was drunk. He pulled off the road (when he shouldn’t have been driving at all), I’m guessing to get a cup of coffee at Wendy’s. He fell asleep in the drive-through lane, blocking access to those behind him. Police were called. The officers woke him and convinced him to move his car. He “blew” a 0.108 on the booze-o-meter, for crying in a bucket. As one of the officers was handcuffing him to arrest him for DUI, he suddenly went nuts.
Why? Why? Why?
Before he got in his car, why didn’t somebody take his keys away, offer him a ride home, offer him a couch to sleep on?
Why? Why? Why?
If you insist that APD Officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan be held responsible for Rayshard Brooks’s death, then those who let him drive drunk should also be held to account.
UPDATE: after I wrote the section above about Rayshard Brooks, information was published that the Atlanta Police Department is looking for his girlfriend as a suspect in the deliberate arson at that Wendy’s.
“You know, Natalie White, she’s my girlfriend. She left. I said, ‘Baby, I’ll get Wendy’s and then I’ll go back …’” he can be heard saying.
His girlfriend let him drive drunk, then burned down the Wendy’s? I am floored.
Kudos for collective efforts rather than solitary vigilantism. Batman is a comic book superhero, not a real person.
Collective efforts are more likely to bring lasting change.
More kudos for prominently calling upon heritage, tradition, and history. These are powerful motivators.
The heritage, tradition, and history of the United States should powerfully motivate further reform to allow full participation by Blacks in the life of the Republic and its States without daily fear for life and limb.
No, that doesn’t mean that I support reparation for slavery.
Nice list of co-creators, but a prominent category is omitted: perceived enemies. Christians are called to a higher ideal (Mt 5:43-48):
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Abraham Lincoln had plans for Reconstruction during his second term that would have destroyed the Old South as an enemy of the Union. His philosophy towards the aftermath of the Civil War might be summarized by this quote:
Lincoln was assassinated and his plans for reconciliation miscarried. We could all do better by referring to Lincoln more often.
I call hogwash because I suspect that respect and celebration are reserved for a limited collection of differences and commonalities approved of by members of Black Lives Matter. Other differences and commonalities are not respected nor celebrated.
Keep this sentence in mind as we continue, and watch for sour notes.
Again, I call hogwash, because of all the times that a response to “Black lives matter!” of “All lives matter!” has been shouted down.
Such bullying tactics imply an Orwellian more equal than others status to Black lives over others.
(The reference is to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.)
Building community and drawing strength in it is a good thing on its face. Is the “beautiful struggle” among the community’s members (like a communal barn-raising) or against outsiders? Those looking for a fight usually find one.
My concern here is the same as for Paragraph 10. Freedom and justice for Blacks is a prerequisite — Blacks first, everybody else waits.
Also: would Black Lives Matter allow me to get away with saying, “I am unapologetically White in my positioning.”? I think that I would minimally be tagged with white privilege and probably be accused of advocating white supremacy.
So those who support the Black Lives Matter agenda are globalists — Blacks, not Americans. I do not agree with cosmopolitans who look down their globetrotters at a small-minded United States of their own cramped understanding, and similarly I do not agree with members of Black Lives Matter who allow the color of their skin to eclipse their American citizenship.
Here the agenda of Black Lives Matter is trading on the goodwill of the phrase “Black lives matter” in order to rake in as many allies as possible. If membership in the movement is so generous and all-inclusive, why all the qualifications? Just say that everyone is welcome.
I admit that my brain melts and leaks out my ears at this sentence.
“Transgender” denies reality. All the cutting in the world will not change a man into a woman nor a woman into a man. Swallowing hormone pills will confuse your natural body chemistry right up until you stop swallowing the pills.
If you want to mess up your own body chemistry and carve your fantasy into your own flesh, go right ahead — but don’t impose your fantasy on me, or on children.
I cannot follow anyone who is willing to deny bedrock reality.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this difference in opinion regarding transgender brothers and sisters is likely to be recognized but unlikely to be celebrated. (See Paragraph 9.)
My map of the semantic minefield has blank spots. I have no idea what is meant here by “self-reflexive” although I might be on firmer ground in being able to understand the phrase “cisgender privilege.”
Opposing trans-antagonistic violence is easy. Nobody should be targeted for violence.
Before I sign on to the rest, somebody needs, first, to explain what “self-reflexive” means and, second, offer examples of cisgender privilege that need dismantling. If you suggest sacramental marriage of one (cisgender) man and one (cisgender) woman, you lose my support.
So… no pro basketball or football?
Seriously, I easily support chucking sexism and misogyny but how can those two terms be defined after dismantling “cisgender privilege?” (See previous paragraph.)
All warm and fuzzy, except for that slightly gamey “comrades.” No to socialism and communism both, friend.
“Family-friendly” is doubleplusgood.
How about we dismantle conditions that force two-parent incomes? Then one parent can work to support the family, and one can mind the home front.
Nice that mothers are allowed privacy, but must they perform public justice work? In BLM’s world, may mothers perform non-political work? May mothers stay at home while fathers work to support the family?
If all the adults are busy performing public justice work, where are the sales clerks or wait staff or electricians or plumbers or coders or electronic assemblers or stock pickers or drivers or teachers or airline pilots or painters? Is all that stuff suddenly done by robots? How many public justice workers can a robot economy support?
Betcha that disrupting “the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure” requires giving up control of how your kids are raised, despite that clause at the end about degrees of comfort.
Will Dad, Mom, and two-and-a-half kids get shunned by their village? How far does a nuclear family need to extend before it meets with BLM’s approval? Three generations under one roof? Granny, Mom, and five children from different fathers, with a sixth unrelated boyfriend?
What gives with “mothers, parents, and children?” That seems half-baked. Where have fathers slunk off to? Are fathers so feeble in current Black culture that they drop out of the discussion of family? Fathers are important.
Ugly English pronoun alert!
I don’t care who you’re sleeping with, as long as you don’t force me to approve of the arrangement.
Also, this sets up a fake grievance. Next to no adult believes that everybody in the world is heterosexual. Most adults assume heterosexuality because most people are heterosexual.
Listen to grandma! She knows lotsa good stuff. So does gramps. Listen more often than required by genealogy school assignments. Talk to grandma and gramps before the coronavirus carries them off.
These seems repetitive. To be snarky: the BLM belief statement needs copyediting.
I support and affirm that Black lives matter.
I am interested in alternatives to the organization Black Lives Matter that specifically support helping Blacks while affirming family and civic life. Suggestions can be made in the comments section.
Full text of “What We Believe” at blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/
The paragraphs below are numbered so that they can be easily referenced in the comments above. The original website texts does not have paragraph numbers.
- Four years ago, what is now known as the Black Lives Matter Global Network began to organize. It started out as a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission was to build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.
- In the years since, we’ve committed to struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.
- Black Lives Matter began as a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism. Our intention from the very beginning was to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities. The impetus for that commitment was, and still is, the rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state.
- Enraged by the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, and inspired by the 31-day takeover of the Florida State Capitol by POWER U and the Dream Defenders, we took to the streets. A year later, we set out together on the Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride to Ferguson, in search of justice for Mike Brown and all of those who have been torn apart by state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism. Forever changed, we returned home and began building the infrastructure for the Black Lives Matter Global Network, which, even in its infancy, has become a political home for many.
- Ferguson helped to catalyze a movement to which we’ve all helped give life. Organizers who call this network home have ousted anti-Black politicians, won critical legislation to benefit Black lives, and changed the terms of the debate on Blackness around the world. Through movement and relationship building, we have also helped catalyze other movements and shifted culture with an eye toward the dangerous impacts of anti-Blackness.
- These are the results of our collective efforts.
- The Black Lives Matter Global Network is as powerful as it is because of our membership, our partners, our supporters, our staff, and you. Our continued commitment to liberation for all Black people means we are continuing the work of our ancestors and fighting for our collective freedom because it is our duty.
- Every day, we recommit to healing ourselves and each other, and to co-creating alongside comrades, allies, and family a culture where each person feels seen, heard, and supported.
- We acknowledge, respect, and celebrate differences and commonalities.
- We work vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people.
- We intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting.
- We are unapologetically Black in our positioning. In affirming that Black Lives Matter, we need not qualify our position. To love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others.
- We see ourselves as part of the global Black family, and we are aware of the different ways we are impacted or privileged as Black people who exist in different parts of the world.
- We are guided by the fact that all Black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location.
- We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.
- We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
- We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.
- We practice empathy. We engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.
- We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.
- We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
- We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).
- We cultivate an intergenerational and communal network free from ageism. We believe that all people, regardless of age, show up with the capacity to lead and learn.
- We embody and practice justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another.