In the year since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Mo., the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has gained widespread attention. But some prominent Americans have voiced concerns about the campaign's goals.
The BLM movement, started by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza, was intended as a bulwark against anti-black racism in the US amid a series of high-profile incidents in which unarmed black men were killed by police. “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” wrote Ms. Garza in article for the Feminist Wire. “It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
But some are critical of the movement. “The 'BlackLivesMatter' movement is focused on the wrong targets, to the detriment of blacks who would like to see real change,” Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson wrote in an article for USA Today on August 24.
In a televised interview on Fox News's "The Kelly File," Mr. Carson said that many African-Americans share his view, but that they feel uncomfortable speaking out.
In late August, African-American US Navy veteran Peggy Hubbard posted a video on her Facebook page, criticizing the BLM movement. Watched by over 8 million people, the video recounted recent shootings that have caused concern, including the death of 9-year-old Jamyla Bolden who was killed at home while doing her homework.
“You black people, my black people, you are the most violent [people] I have ever seen in my life. A little girl is dead. You say black lives matter? Her life mattered. Her dreams mattered. Her future mattered," says Hubbard in the video.
A few days later, Ms. Hubbard posted a second video, reiterating her concerns about BLM. “This is not a race issue. It never has been a racial issue.... This is about accountability and responsibility,” she said. “Black lives matter, white lives matter, Asian lives matter, Hispanic lives matter, Lithuanian lives matter, Russian lives matter, life in general matters ... but it’s never gonna get better until we admit that we have a problem in our community.”
Hubbard goes on to accuse BLM of focusing on white-on-black racism, particularly in the form of police brutality, instead of focusing on the black-on-black violence that afflicts some black communities.
“If anyone is surprised by Hubbard’s emergence, or that there are like-minded black people who are encouraging her, it is only because large swaths of the media cover the black community as if conservative voices like hers don’t even exist,” wrote Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.
Another conservative voice, Johnathan Gentry, black minister at West Angeles Church of God in Christ, cited BLM as “superficial, shallow” in a televised interview with Fox News. “Why are you not cleaning up your own community if black lives matter?” he questioned, saying BLM is “nowhere to be found in their own communities.”
The movement has also faced criticism from those who see it as a demonstration of anti-police sentiment. A growing refrain from some politicians and conservative media claims that the movement legitimizes or even enables anti-police violence.
Last Friday, Harris County, Texas Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth was killed at a Houston-area gas station after filling up his car. Police have accused an African-American man, Shannon J. Miles of the murder. The “execution-style" killing of Mr. Goforth was condemned by Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman who said in a statement following the shooting, “We’ve heard black lives matter, all lives matter.... well, cops’ lives matter, too. So why don’t we just drop the qualifier and just say 'lives matter.'"
As the movement continues to gain steam, so does the backlash against it. Earlier this week, African-American US Marine Corps veteran Michael Whaley launched the ‘All Lives Matter’ campaign, garnering support from others across the country. “Michael, you have restored my faith in people. You are doing what SO MANY are afraid to do. You’re standing up to your whole race,” a supporter posted on the campaign’s website.
In an attempt to counter the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag that has permeated social media, Whaley has started #ColorBlind, hoping to move away from a focus on race and skin color. Brutality and violence exist, Whaley says. Instead of highlighting race, why not unify in an effort to reduce violence and improve justice for all?
But many have defended the movement against such attacks. The Washington Post's Janell Ross wrote on Tuesday:
It is a kind of logic that says safety and civil rights sit at opposite poles or are part of a zero-sum equation – if x matters, then y does not. That not only has never been an idea that Black Lives Matter activists have publicly espoused; it's pretty antithetical to the movement's general push for greater regard for the experiences, injuries and deaths suffered at the hands of police. Existing patterns, these activists argue, suggest that black lives do not matter at all. So they must be spoken for and spoken about with particular fervor.
Other supporters point out that responding to "Black Lives Matter" by saying "all lives matter" minimizes the problems faced by black Americans, and undercuts their message. In a New York Times op-ed from August 9, columnist Charles M. Blow wrote, "until this country values all lives equally, it is both reasonable and indeed necessary to specify the lives it seems to value less."