Black lives matter, period.
Anyone still arguing about the phrase has larger issues they need to work out. I'm not going to explain the phrase because you've already seen the memes and the comic strips. It's been almost a decade since the phrase became popular, and I'm certain someone has explained it to you since then (in fact I may even have a post from way back that does just that). So we're not wasting time on that today. Today, we're talking about a very different type of controversy.
The reason I created this post is because I have used "#blacklivesmatter" both on the blog and in social media before, and I wanted to acknowledge the controversy surrounding the official organization.
What is BlackLivesMatter?
BlackLivesMatter is actually multiple things:
- It's a phrase/slogan/rallying cry
- It's a movement
- It's an organization
When people say "Black Lives Matter," they aren't necessarily claiming allegiance to the organization—they might not even know there is an organization. The ideas and intentions behind the people who agree with the basic statement may vary. When the phrase began it's rise to prominence in our society, there was no organization around it, and that gave people freedom to approach the same underlying belief that black lives are just as valuable as any other human life even if they had different opinions on how and why. Now, it is difficult to separate the idea that black lives matter from the organization Black Lives Matter, which makes usage of the hashtag a little messy.
The Organization "BlackLivesMatter"
The official organization of Black Lives Matter was created by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in 2013. Within the past year, I began to see several people denouncing the organization and others wrestling with what they feel comfortable with. Despite accusations that the black people struggling to accept the organization are "sell-outs," there are two valid concerns many have raised about the organization itself (along with conspiracy theories, but we're going to stick to verifiable information), both of which center around it's beliefs.
When I first became aware of the controversy, denouncers pointed me a page on their website entitled "What We Believe." Since the heavy scrutiny of statements made on this page, it has been removed from the site. I was able to find an archived copy and have linked it below.
While the beginning of this page spoke about ending police brutality, by the time you reach the end, there was a call to dismantle the nuclear family structure and language perceived to be anti-male. Several things on this page are in direct conflict with Christian principles—
Here I want to insert a bit of opinion/commentary/clarification. One of the prominent features of the "What We Believe" page was the support for the LGBT+ community. This has also come up in discussion about the organization. In my opinion, statements such as "We affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum." are not in contradiction with Christian beliefs. While I may not agree with how people live their lives I do believe their life is valuable and I do think it is a tragedy that the LGBT+ community experiences death by homicide and suicide at higher rates than any other community (particularly people from the black LGBT+ community). I agree with statements such as "Black Trans Lives Matter," because they do. Within the original "What We Believe" page, there was language that seemed to promote homosexuality that I did not agree with, so I do understand why this comes up in conversation, but in general I do not see an issue with affirming the value of life no matter the belief, sexual orientation, lifestyle, gender, etc. of the person. Black LGBT+ Lives Matter just like Black Muslim Lives Matter and Black Atheist Lives Matter. Black lives matter, period.
—so the question quickly became, is it OK for a Christian to align itself with an organization that promotes ideas it doesn't agree with.
Many point to Amos 3:3 to say "no," but many of us work for or shop at major corporations that stand for things we don't agree with. Is this different? Should we be assessing everything in our lives this way?
The second thing I started to hear about the organization, was that there was a lot of spiritualism. The founders of the movement have said that the reason they invite people to chant the names of the dead is to "invoke spirits." This is likely the origin of hashtags like "#SayHerName." I'm not about that life at all. The Bible condemns necromancy (the act of calling up spirits, invoking the dead, talking to the dead, etc.).
In addition to the way these beliefs clash with Christianity, there are people who accuse the the organization of Marxist intentions. This accusation stems from an interview in which Patrisse Cullors admits the founders are "trained Marxists."
Below are some of the controversial statements from the original "What We Believe" page (in case the archived page disappears one day as well). In some I have added emphasis to highlight the part that is questionable.
We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.
As a woman, I have experienced sexism and misogyny and applaud the goal of creating spaces free of this, but the part about being free of environments in which men are centered is questionable. Ideally, I want the most qualified person to lead, whether that person is male or female. I think there should be groups that are centered on men and groups centered on women and groups for everyone (for example, I am part of a young adult group that is open to everyone, but there are also women's groups and men's groups; all three have their place).
Part of the disruption of the black community has stemmed from the emasculation of black men and the removal of black men from our society. I feel that this statement goes beyond creating an equal and safe environment for women, which is concerning to me.
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
I agree that it takes a village to raise a child, but I also know that it has been proven that there is an advantage to growing up in a two parent home (re: a nuclear family structure). I agree that we should support each other, but I'm not trying to "disrupt" two parent homes—the support should be in addition to not in place of.
Further I find it interesting that the mention "mothers" and "parents" but never mention "fathers." Once again the message written between the lines leaves little space for men in the equation.
We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence. ... We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).
These are the statements made that I believe go a bit further than simply protecting members of the LGBT+ community (which as they have accurately stated are disproportionately affected by violence and need to be protected), into promoting the ideals and working to make it normal.
As I've mentioned throughout this post, I do believe that black lives matter, and regardless of gender, religion, sexual orientation, political party, educational status, economic status, etc. There is work that needs to be done to protect our community from systemic racism (particularly with respect to the criminal justice system and police brutality). There are definitely things that the organization believes that I do not agree with. Truthfully, there are a lot of companies who have employees, CEOs, and shareholders that hold beliefs contrary to mine. A perfect example is a restaurant near my job that has great food; all of their food is halal because the owners are likely Muslim. No one would say that I'm making a statement about Islam because I eat there.
When it comes to the Black Lives Matter organization, I think the question we should be asking ourselves is about what we are taking part in. If I were to show up to a march or rally hosted by Black Lives Matter and they were chanting to "invoke the spirits," I would most certainly leave. If they were pushing for legislation that I disagreed with, I would not cosign or otherwise support that legislation. If I suspect they are using donations for purposes I don't agree with, I wouldn't donate. However, if they're organizing something that we agree on, I will show up to support that. If they're pushing to get rid of no-knock warrants, I support that. If they're pushing for police reform, I support that. If they're educating the general public about injustice, I support that. In short, I only support the organization on issues that align with my beliefs.
- "What We Believe". Web Archive; visited October 4, 2020
- "About". Black Lives Matter; visited October 3, 2020
- Ryan Foley. "BLM leaders practice 'witchcraft' and summon dead spirits, black activist claims". The Christian Post. September 1, 2020
- Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:10-12
- The Real News Network. "A Short History of Black Lives Matter". YouTube. July 22, 2015
- Tom Kertscher. "Is Black Lives Matter a Marxist movement?". PolitiFact. July 21, 2020
- I’m not going to lie, I had to look up Marxism. I’m sure they taught this in school, but it wasn’t a main focus. To be honest, all forms of government outside of democracy are essentially condemned in the US—likely the product of both nationalism and residual effects of The Cold War. You’ll notice I didn’t speak on this point further, primarily because I don’t know enough about Marxism to add anything to the conversation.