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Black Lives Matter and The Failure to Build a Movement


Black Lives Matter and The Failure to Build a Movement

Douglas Williams

This article first appeared on The South Lawn blog and is re-published here with permission from the author.

Black Lives Matter has become an embarrassment.


Hmmm. It seems to me that this author is being seriously critical of a movement based on the behaviors of a few activists, which then detracts from their important message. Freire (1970) wrote, in his “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” that those who have suffered will be the ones dictating the terms of their liberation. If that means going through an awkward stage while they seek a solid platform and organize into a powerful voice, so be it. Don’t put down your sisters, my friend–help them.


I’m curious to know what other BLM activists have to say about the incident with Bernie Sanders in Seattle. I am not sure if BLM is a completely decentralized movement or if there is some kind of coordinating organization or organizations, but if the latter, I’d be curious to know if they have any thoughts about what went down. Or even if there is no central leadership, what do BLM people in other cities think?


FFS. You’d think on important matters like this, journalists would do their due diligence and research the people they’re writing about. Marissa Johnson is NOT part of the Black Lives Matter movement. She is an extreme activist that high jacked the movement because it was getting more attention than hers. She started and is still running a group who goes by Outside Agitators 206. She is against any white person who wants to help with the ‘black person’s plight’ - if you try to stand with her and you are white, you’re a white supremacist trying to secretly undermine her cause. This woman and her group are poisoning the well of the civil rights movement and moving the hand back on what so many amazing Americans accomplished because she is so goddamn hateful.


Haven’t agent provocateurs been deployed many times in the past to target and undermine progressive causes? These loose cannons might be a little less loose than we think. Might be secretly influenced by HRC’s campaign, or even more troubling, by the CIA or other secret entities of the deep state, etc. In any event, this is of course purely speculative at this point, but if any investigative journalists are looking seriously into the matter, it would surely be of great help if CD could publish their work.


Yes, that has been my contention here in CD. It’s curious, however, why the puppeteers would choose semi-literates like Alicia Garza (just look at her meaningless comments given in the article) for that purpose. Perhaps, in a country where dumbing down in education has been an unqualified success, those behind the scene have no alternative.


Another Thank you Douglas Williams. I too find it odd that individuals in the BLM “movement” seem only to target and disrupt the one candidate who by far has the strongest personal story and policy advocacy record in civil rights and other issues affecting black lives. The fact that these individuals have not pursued their disruptive tactics against Clinton raises in my mind the well-known Clinton political tactic of triangulation. In order to smear or otherwise damage the political opposition, the Clintons will use third parties, who appear to be independent political actors, to provide the “facts” they need to use against their adversaries. Thus we see Clinton liberals (and even a few self-described socialists) pushing the false idea that Bernie Sanders has a “black” or “race” problem, which if true would prevent him from putting together the necessary coalition to be an effective candidate for the presidency. When identity politics is used as a means to disrupt and prevent unity among progressives, it is in fact a form of class politics - a politics that benefits only those who stand in fear of a real unification and movement of the people against corporate capitalism.


I said the first BLM incident at NetRoots was surreal, this incident is surreal, and that is putting the best face on it. This young man’s article points out exactly, in detail, what I mean. Excellent job, Douglas Williams.


If these actions are not representative of BLM then the organization and members should speak up. Because the corporate media and people who don’t want change like what these BLM are doing. But be clear the BLM seem to hate white people and males- so this organization BLM is a perfect tool of the elite. Keep the 99% fighting among themselves for the crumbs and pay no attention to who is behind the curtain.


It is nice to be lectured by people supporting some arm chair revolutionary, one that supported Sarah f*king Palin in the past (one of these two blow hards admitted that she supported Palin in the past and said that the GOP made a mistake by not “grooming her”. Gotta wonder if she’d be so “revolutionary” if they had).

Some of these people have much more in common with the far right you might find in Europe than with anything remotely progressive or radical. They hate immigrants, and those not like them, they support some economic policies usually associated with the left (for their people only) and have little to no interest in an actual dialogue. These two, which I don’t think are representative of BLM in its entirety, would be much more comfortable with Le Pen in France than a social democratic or radical party. Instead of working to bring working people together to fight capitalists and those profiting off of this system, instead of fighting to change our society and economy to make it more equitable, to help the poor, they want to raise their fists and pretend they’re some radicals fighting the power. No, they’re fools and clearly have no knowledge of the history of social movements or any activist experience. Anyone that has had to deal with the radical suburban Black Bloc or Spartacist League dolts can tell you how it is to deal with fools like this.

By the way, did anyone notice that Garza didn’t mention challenging Clinton? She said that she and BLM would challenge the Republicans, I didn’t see her say anything on Clinton. Simply amazing. Whatever someone thinks of Sanders, King and black radicals knew that for there to be racial justice, there had to be economic justice and that society and our economy had to be radically changed for that to be a reality. How in the hell can any organization on the left back Clinton, knowing damn well she has no interest in doing that? Think those banks funding her campaign are paying her to undermine their interests (and they have a horrible record in the black community)? Can she claim that Clinton has anywhere near as good of a record as Sanders on civil rights? You know, an organization can be a front organization for powerful interests without even knowing it. If Garza and BLM don’t challenge Clinton (a person with a far worst record on issues that impact both black and gay people than Sanders) at least as much as they have Sanders, that’d be exactly what they are.

By the way, I actually did support their first action against Sanders and thought it was a good thing, I thought that they’d do that to others by this point.


However, the folks who disrupted the Bernie Sanders rally do not represent poor black people any more than Bernie Sanders does. They have college degrees, are funded and well supported by the non-profit industrial complex with the full backing of billion-dollar corporations rooted in the history of white supremacy (the United Way & George Soros), and are not living the disadvantaged life of poor black people denied access to both social support and an education.

This sad, sad fact of class privilege of those who proclaim to speak for disenfranchised black people is ignored and is as damaging and harmful as white liberals supposedly ignoring the black lives matter movement.

Making a phony distinction between racial injustice and economic injustice - as though these are at odds with one another - is a sign of a reactionary movement, not a progressive movement. It is terrifying to see privileged black reactionaries feed their own privileged non-profit industrial complex class privilege by painting the words of false identity politics rhetoric on the surface in carefully-staged stunts.

Capitalism needs to be overturned, and fighting to oppose anti-capitalists - the Bernie Sanders supporters - does more to cause the problems of the violent and racist cops and jail/incarceration system, by far, than decrying white anti-capitalist liberals who are on the same side as the black people who are represented by the black lives matter movement.

The black lives matter movement should be demanding that the police force be DISARMED and that those in jails be immediately RELEASED, not just spitting in the face of white liberals with empty identity-politics rhetoric. Where are they on the issue of police disarmament, and the immediate releasing of people from jail? THAT would be an issue worth interrupting Bernie Sanders rallies for - and they are silent on this.

The fact that they are interrupting Bernie Sanders with mere empty rhetoric, and not with real demands, is a solid sign that these so-called ‘leaders’ of the black lives matter movement are not really concerned with the improvement of the lives of black people - just as is their refusal to mention the names of native-born indigenous peoples who have been killed and whose lives are destroyed, their refusal to mention the names of Mexican immigrants who have been killed at the border, and their refusal to mention the names of people in other countries killed by the U.S. military.

It is a sick shame that the so-called leaders of the black lives matter movement see and speak about only the suffering of black people, and not the suffering of immigrants, indigenous peoples, or people in other countries. This is yet another sign that these so-called leaders are reactionaries doing great harm to the movement for a better world. They are not progressives, and it is a tragedy that there is no strong movement to oppose the reactionary element of the left.


Yes, that crossed my mind.


They did a hatchet job on Bernie tonight on MSNBC, they started by playing the tapes of Bernie at NetRoots, looking understandably upset, then the tape of the two women in Seattle, next they cut to Hillary saying Black Lives Matter. I turned it off at that point. Unbelievable, that this narrative of Bernie as race insensitive could take hold, this is a vicious injustice and MSNBC is complicit in these attempts at destroying Bernie’s sterling civil rights reputation. The entire narrative is a fraud, Bernie Sanders does not have to apologize to anyone. I fear, as I’ve said before, this fraud has legs. No one on MSNBC investigated the two women in Seattle, who we now know are frauds.


At the core of racism is economics. I am not voting for Sanders since I feel he should have ran as an independent. Regardless, he is the only candidate who is running on altering the economic system. Black Lives Matters might try meeting with Sanders campaign to discuss issues and about sharing the stage. He is an easy mark to get airtime, but I believe BLM does a disservice to their work when they cannot distinguish between potential allies and system enemies. The Clinton’s policies have harmed the lives of Black people more than others since they support the elite against all economic classes below them. Republicans, of course, along with many Democrats should be identified for what they have done to black lives. Attacking Sanders seems to be rather misplaced and, worse, shows a misunderstanding of the system that has held them down since 1619. Both King and Malcolm X grew in identifying the enemy. I hope BLM does too. They are needed, and not to pave the way for any more corporatist candidates from the Democratic Party.


I hope you are right.


I just saw Alicia Garza co-founder of BLM interviewed on MSNBC-and she was asked specifically what policy changes she would like to take place. She could not give one specific example. She did say that disruption is a great way to be noticed. Yes disrupt the one candidate who has a real message. A message that is resonating -and the corporate media and BLM saying he has to back off his message. MSNBC talks about the crowds that Bernie Sanders is getting but their is no interest as to why he is drawing these crowds. MSNBC repeatedly points out that Sanders is a 73 yr old white guy who comes from a white state-so how can this guy represent black people. Just as how Obama has been a leader for the African American community???MSNBC got rid of the one person who had some courage Ed Schultz. All they talk about is Trump and I’m sure TPP has been banned. Why not ask Alicia Garza this question-have you reached out to the current sitting President of the United States? Maybe he might be interested in her ideas----this is so transparent people should wake up!


Every movement with sufficient numbers will have loose cannons who are shaky in their thinking, methods, or motives. That’s human nature, not a slur on Black Lives Matter. Bernie’s platform does show some need for homework and outreach, but he’s got the track record of someone who’s serious about civil rights. As a senator from a state that’s 95% white, the times he’s spoken on behalf of the black community have not been for mere political expediency.

I think that Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford have some serious self-examination to do. Black Lives Matter and Sanders supporters have a lot of overlap and there’s good dialogue going on, but the Outside Agitators action made a mess of things. It’s damn foolish to ask a candidate to give account and then refuse to let them speak and have a dialogue. More thoughtful voices from all sides of this will need to do what those two didn’t.


Hateful or paranoid/


I have read several articles which point out that the BLM activists are paid by the Soros Foundation; a Hillary Clinton machine.


No. Read the article again. The author is not attacking the movement. He draws clear distinctions between the movement on one hand and the BLM disruptresses on the other.