Black Lives Matter’s campaign of division and social separation will do nothing to improve racial equality, argues Comment Central.
In a desperate bid to grab news headlines, last week a group of nine protestors from Black Lives Matter stormed the runway of London City Airport and chained themselves together.
The protest disrupted hundreds of families travel plans and left thousands of passengers stranded. Seven of the protestors were arrested.
The campaign group claimed it was motivated to carry out the protest in order to highlight the environmental impact of air travel on the lives of black people locally and around the world. In tweets published to coincide with the demonstration Black Lives Matter explained the world’s ‘climate crisis is a racist crisis’, adding that ‘7/10 countries most affected by climate change are in sub-Saharan Africa’.
To claim that global warming and racism are connected is far-fetched. Having beef with the developed world’s perceived inaction on climate change is one thing, but to claim that it is motivated by a sense of racism is laughable.
The incoherent direction of the Black Lives Matter campaign is symptomatic of broader issues affecting the movement.
Firstly, racism isn’t the issue it once was (at least not among Anglophone countries). According to the World Values Survey, people from the United Kingdom and the United States were deemed to be among the most likely to embrace a racially diverse neighbour. The research also chimes with evidence from the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, which shows hate crimes remained stagnant between 2004 and 2012. Similarly, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, the number of hate groups have actually decreased in recent years.
Put simply, the research doesn’t support the argument that countries like the US and UK are seeing a rising tide of racist sentiment.
And it’s telling that of the nine protestors to participate in last week’s protest none were black, fuelling claims that the ranks of Black Lives Matter are swelled with middle-class brats with nothing better to do.
Secondly, the Black Lives Matter campaign lacks the inclusive nature of previous racial equality groups. When Martin Luther King stood before the Lincoln Memorial in the summer of 1963, he addressed a crowd of many thousands from a multitude of races and backgrounds. He emphasised a message of social inclusion and togetherness:
“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
But above all, it was a message of hope and optimism:
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”
In contrast, the Black Lives Matter movement seems to emphasise the language of segregation and pessimism. The movements website talks of a ‘call to action for Black people’. It describes itself as a reaction to ‘the anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements’.
Even the name of the movement itself seems to heighten the sense of separation between black people and other races, as demonstrated by the competing slogan ‘all lives matter’. The beauty of the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties was its ability to emphasise how everybody had a stake in its ideology. Everybody stood to gain from the country delivering on its promise that ‘all men are created equal’.
Racism remains a challenge in both the UK and the US, but the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement would do well to appreciate the enormous strides that have been taken to improve the lot of black people, while also recognising that only together can we complete the journey to racial harmony.