By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
If #BlackLivesMatter is a movement, just what does that mean? Obama's 2008 campaign said it was “the movement” too. If modern movements are indistinguishable from brands, to whom are they responsible besides “creators” and marketers? Are some #BlackLivesMatter leaders angling for spots in what Adolph Reed calls the race management elite? Could this be why #BlackLivesMatter has no critique of the black misleadership class, or of capitalism?
Where's the #BlackLivesMatter Critique of the Black Misleadership Class, or Obama or Hillary?
By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
So what exactly is the BlackLivesMatter movement? It's a hashtag certainly, and it's a brand, likely trademarked by now. OpalTometti, one of its co-creators says it's “a strategic response to combat white supremacy.” But what does that really mean? How would we ever know if we actually beat white supremacy?
Some better questions are whether #BlackLivesMatter is really anything like a peoples movement aimed at changing society and lives for the better, or is it the private vehicle of its co-creators who get to take it where they decide to go? To whom are #BlackLivesMatter's leaders accountable, and just where are they taking their “movement”? Barack Obama's 2008 campaign marketed itself as “the movement” too.
Why doesn't the #BlackLivesMatter movement, supposedly focused upon the unique needs of people of color, have any critique of the black political class, almost all Democrats, who have been key stakeholders in the building of the prison state, in gentrification and school privatization from New Orleans to Detroit and beyond, and who helped peddle the subprime mortgages to black families which exploded and cut black family wealth by nine-tenths? Have they even noticed that a black president has closed and privatized more public schools than any other in US history? For all the big words they use, do they ever mention the word “capitalism”?
There are ominous signs. Last month folks whom Alicia Garza described as “part of our team” disrupted two minor white male candidates at NetRootsNation, the annual networking event for paid and wannabe paid Democratic party activists, embarrassing them with demands over structural racism and “say her name”. If they were positioning themselves for careers inside the far-flung Democratic party apparatus, it was a smart move, because Hillary wasn't there. Hence they got noticed in that crowd of Democrat operatives without antagonizing the people with the real money and connections.
When Hard Knock Radio's Davey D interviewed Garza on July 21, just before the Cleveland #BlackLivesMatter conference, Garza dropped several more indications that seem to point toward an eventual affiliation with Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
Beginning at 44:31 into the interview, Garza has this to say about the NetRootsNation confrontation
“What happened at NetRoots this past weekend really shook the white progressive movement to its core because when we look at the landscape and the field, who's running particularly for Democrats our folks haven't been that excited. There has been some level of energy that's been generated around some candidates who've been talking about income inequality but at the same time there's a real reticence to hold people accountable.
“So I feel really proud of our team for pulling back the curtain, right? You saw that as a result of those action what happened was every single one of those candidates scrambled to release statements to be closer aligned to the program the vision and the demands of the black lives matter movement.”
Like all brand-savvy Democrats these days, Garza calls her party “the progressive movement” which makes white Democrats “the white progressive movement.” It's hard to be clearer than that. As for candidates scrambling to align themselves with “...the program the vision and the demands of the black lives matter movement...” the sketchy few of those on their web site are a pretty low bar, and seem not to have been updated in months. Hillary on the other hand, seems to have aced this test by issuing a timely tweet assuring us that black lives do indeed matter. Apparently that's all a candidate has to do to satisfy this movement.
Here's more from the Hard Knock Radio interview...
“The first thing I think is for us all to acknowledge is that none of us is satisfied with the way that our democratic system is set up. And so we are taking on the task of reshaping it. Democracy should be a place where there are robust and challenging conversations about the future of our nation and the future of our world. So we are really committed to making that happen. At the same time we understand that within the current electoral system there is no candidate who is truly going to meet all of our needs.
“So instead of focusing on 2016, what happens during the election, we really have our eyes set on what happens November 5. and have we created the political ground, the political space to actually move a set of demands that will change the quality of life for our people. That's where our vision is set, November 5, 2016 and beyond. So our strategy then sits in that context and when we look at it that way then we understand that we actually need to shape the field. So first things first we have to make sure that Republicans and Democrats, that you can actually tell the difference between them, right?
“To do that we need to make sure that Democrats stop acting like Republicans. In that case we need to push every single candidate on the Democratic party side to be sharper and also to get closer to what it is that we want to see for our communities...
The best way to affect the Republican party is to build a strong democratic (or does she mean Democratic?) movement for racial, economic and gender justice in this country...”
The line “no candidate... is truly going to meet our needs” is older than Ms. Garza. It's what wise old black Democrat heads always tell us every four years – that demanding more than Democrats are ready to give us is immature and unrealistic, that critics should grow up and shut up.
And at the risk of repeating ourselves, how fixed upon the unique problems of black America, can Garza and her “co-creators” of this movement be without a solid critique of the black political class, unless of course they aspire to join that class as some new/old kind of spokespeople, in Adolph Reed's words, “youthful aspirants to the race management elite”?
If the #BlackLivesMatter strategy for change or “responding to white supremacy” or whatever they're doing consists of shaping the field of Democratic candidates, that says a lot.
Late in the interview host Davey D directly asked Garza the third party question, why shouldn't we found or start or take over a third party directly, enthusiastically and unambiguously stands for what we know our people need, want and desire. Like a good Democrat who knows perfectly well that most Americans believe there ought to be a third party, Garza talked another five or six minutes without even acknowledging the question.
To be perfectly fair, ten days later on the Melissa Harris-Perry show Garza volunteered that some in the #BlackLivesMatter movement were ready to chuck electoral politics altogether.
It's appropriate to wonder what a “movement” really is these days. Maybe movements nowadays are really brands, to be evoked and stoked by marketers and creators when needed. But it's hard to imagine a brand transferring the power from the wealthy to the poor. It's hard to imagine a brand being accountable to its membership, even if you could be a member of a brand. And it's impossible for a brand to prefigure, to get us ready to imagine and become the kind of people we'll need to be to build the new world after capitalism.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He lives in Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.