From the November-December 2017 issue of News & Letters
It was in Ferguson, Mo., three years ago on Aug. 12, 2014, that sadly we witnessed another police killing of an unarmed New Afrikan man. Once again we were fed the banal excuse of the alleged “criminality” of Michael Brown and, of course, officer Wilson’s fear for his life, as the justification of Mr. Brown’s murder. An added insult to the tragedy of a life cut short was that Brown’s parents and neighbors, who had gathered at the scene of his death, had to watch his body lie covered by a blanket under a hot August sun for four hours.
But out of that tragedy we also witnessed the emergence of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and that phrase signaled much more than an empty slogan without resonance. That is because it expressed an old idea that has been simmering, waiting to be fully addressed: the latest demand of New Afrikans for their total human dignity. Today we can see that the phrase has become the appellative of a decentralized, horizontally led national coalition.
The question is: Can BLM as a functional organized entity develop philosophically, and thereby become capable of generating something beyond a national discussion of U.S. racism?
PRISONERS’ VIEW OF BLACK LIVES MATTER
Thoughts concerning the potential viability of BLM as a mass movement prompted me to ask other prisoners what their thinking might be.
Prisoner one said that BLM could make a difference in highlighting structural racism and its effect on the lives of New Afrikans, particularly the subtle effects that are not always clearly visible to every amerikan.
Prisoner two thought BLM was on the right track in pushing the guardians of the status quo to begin to respect the inherent dignity of New Afrikans’ lives.
Prisoner three thought BLM was necessary in response to the precarious nature that defines New Afrikan people’s existence in amerika, and that it is very important that BLM maintain its autonomy.
Prisoner four opined that if New Afrikans wanted a change in their social relations in amerika, then they needed to place themselves in the position to be the change desired. Thus BLM can provide the appropriate medium to bring about the fundamental change the country needs.
All these prisoners have a positive view of BLM. However, those views are the products of limited perspectives because we lack an in-depth knowledge of BLM’s total mission statement.
BLM VERSUS AMERIKAN DEMOCRACY
BLM versus amerikan democracy should be discussed entirely in the historical context that birthed the racial tensions that exist today. BLM, by its stance and projections, has pitted itself against amerika’s foremost ideals. We all have heard it said by presidents that amerika is a nation founded on laws. The implication being abstract principles of laws are the sole arbiter of all social interactions between human beings in amerika. However, the experiences of New Afrikans with the police and judicial system reveal something quite different from the claim of equal justice under the law.
Any talk of changing the basic procedures governing how policing is conducted, and specifically how it plays out between the police and New Afrikans, is interpreted as an attack on the foundation of amerika. That is evident in the attempts to distort and misinterpret the reason why BLM has emerged at this point in time. Once again we are witnessing, in a sense, the hostile reactions of former slave owners displaying their indignation toward emancipated slaves demanding the full fruits their emancipation would entail.
It is imperative to completely draw on the lessons of history to furnish the correct path forward and, at the same time, to reveal the degree of effort necessary to uproot police brutality while bearing in mind that the idea is to eradicate the anti-human abstract principle of laws, and replace them with humanistic principles of restorative justice that recognize the inherent dignity of all human beings.