“A liberal: someone who thinks he knows more about your experience than you do.”
— James Baldwin
They were there when we needed them. They appeared amidst black bodies slain to no consequence relegated to the silence of white supremacy. But that is too often the way of the optic, isn’t it? To gift sight to the intangible emotion? To say something in a moment inundated with suppressed thoughts and feelings. “Something” though, is never everything and isn’t always anything at all.
A Black Lives Matter affiliate went on record this week contending that Joe Biden must do “something” for the black vote. The assertion proved more comedic then contentious being that votes were already cast and given Biden’s anti-black record. Considering her words, and how Black Lives Matter evolved over the years, betrays black lives matter as the “something” handed to black people in a time of heightened distress. As “something,” Black Lives Matter is more like a tissue handed to a crying party. It may wipe the tears, but it fails to acknowledge, or reconcile, its source.
Black Lives Matter, the organization and the movement, functioned as an empathetic back rub, or a kind reminder from a friend that you matter after a situation transpires that suggests the opposite. Though black people embodied the face and optic of the organization, BLM was never black. Anti-black agents knew that the black collective needed a voice and a platform. Black Lives Matter, however, surfaced to dilute the potential for black nationalism and pursued an inclusionary objective under the contentious espousal of blackness and value. If white supremacy is a disease, and it is, BLM is not a cure or a vaccine, it is a symptom. Its function as a movement is to engender a stillness that will keep you sick even if you feel better.
Let us not forget how quickly BLM spoke against Micah Johnson and Gavin Long who met fire with fire. While BLM evokes the black fist as an emblem, Johnson and Long embodied said fist. The organization and movement’s detachment from action and strides toward a non-strategic acquiescence delineates the organization as an optic that must remain confined to performance, not praxis. Dr. King’s nonviolent movement, as he articulated in A Stride Toward Freedom, was not one of passivity; rather, his actions were one of strategy. The BLM strategy is to ameliorate revolutionary fervor with the non-activity of the optic. White nationalists in blue uniforms did not detach from their paternal instincts when they fed murderer Dylan Roof before taking him to jail, and the black collective must have the same love and spirit for our people. Unconditional love encompasses the radical necessity to advance all oppressed people. Black Lives Matter, in this instance, revealed a glimpse of their liberal face. Liberalism is about talking and proceeding in actions that do not deviate from the racial-economic core of this nation.
The black liberal seeks to actualize black power through white acceptance and increased proximity to whiteness. The black liberal is not a black nationalist, but an American patriot seeking to make good on America as the land of opportunity. As Black Lives Matter illustrates in title and execution, the black collective continues to embody this opportunity. Yet, Black Lives Matter has never been an attempt to mobilize change or enlighten the systemic minds of black people. The organization has launched individual opportunity for aspiring assimilationalist that has not yielded collective fruits.
Nevertheless, BLM proved contentious enough to anger white supremacists stupefied and pacified by optics. This anger would add legitimacy to the pseudo flame of Black Lives Matter. As an optic, BLM incured no pressure to implement any change; rather, performative outrage proved a formidable companion for a superficial culture. Images for shares and likes give activism a contemporary “look” but lack the feeling and activity of previous generations. As Malcolm Gladwell noted in his essay “Small Change,” the contemporary moment meditates on “low-risk activism,” which, I would argue, is not activism at all. The participants and “organizers” are understudied and therefore lack the proper education and enlightenment to bring about proper change. Established to feed emotion, emotion composes the organization’s objective. This, of course, means that there is no organization at all.
Many contend that the white liberal, specifically white women, hijacked the BLM movement. This only happened because of two reasons: one is that the movement was never ours, and once those of the majority realized that black lives matter was nothing more than a hollow liberal gesture, it because a means to (falsely) distinguish those of the majority from one another. The irony is that while the Neoliberal may say” black lives matter” and even have it in their social media bios, what they have in common with their overt adversary is that neither she nor he believes that black lives matter aside from servicing white supremacy. The white liberal employs what looks like an interest in black culture as an excuse to become the black advocate. They will chant “black lives matter” as they enroll at the black school and seek to become authorial figures in black culture and societal contribution. The white liberal will chant” black lives matter” as they displace blacks in their quest for “urbanism.” They will donate money and consider themselves sponsors of black greatness, whereas the white liberal as finanicier has actualized another means to wield their supremacy. They will read a few books and deem themselves more able to lead black people in their plight than black people themselves. The black liberal sees this invasion as progress and conceptualizes said behavior as a sign that black lives do indeed matter.
Let us also consider who ships this organization. Kamala Harris and Barack Obama have notably leaned on the organization as proof of their cultural and policitcal affiliations. Though pandered as black progress, Harris, and Obama, like Black Lives Matter, have done nothing beyond performance for the black community. Thus, the black optic’s endorsement and social partnering with the organization delineates an espousal to Neo-liberalism’s new black outfit and does not pledge allegiance to, or illustrate an understanding of, black people.
Black Lives Matter is nothing but a seasonal selection of white nationalism concealed behind the Neo-liberal labeling. Black Lives Matter is just a “matter” of concealed speech that conveys the dress code to a party (usually well-intended) black participants helps assemble but are not invited to attend.
Black Lives Matter may be the biggest case of cultural fraud in the last decade for abducting the revolutionary energy of black youth to foment the myth of American democracy through a reactionary platform. Black Lives Matter functions more as a portrait of faux evolution than a solution for any of the complexities for the black experience. One of the most prominent means of contemporary cognitive bondage is to convince an oppressed faction that they have advocacy. These advocates are just more merchants looking to buy and sell the black collective like the ancestors we are encouraged to forget. Black Lives Matter embodies this merchant disguised as advocate.
Moreover, while Black Lives Matter has not yielded the necessary steps to evolve black people past the acquience of requests for equity and acknoweldgement, its social function does delineate the necessary steps toward progress. Past efforts of protest engendered the black sycophant and optic that has proved another way for white nationalism to illustrate its power. Clarence Thomas, Van Jones, Kamala Harris, Barack Obama, and Daniel Cameron (amongst others) evidence the “progress” from past protests and requests for inclusion. Present efforts must seek to actualize African potential in wake of the social and systemic assassination of our character and culture.