Critics are attacking the ethics of the Black Lives Matter movement after two black men killed several police officers in separate incidents in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
On July 7, former U.S. Army reservist Micah Xavier Johnson shot and killed five white police officers during a protest at El Centro College, Dallas. Less than two weeks later, Gavin Eugene Long, a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant, killed three Baton Rouge police officers.
In the aftermath of these tragedies, Black Lives Matter has received harsh criticism from right-wing media, law enforcement, and political figures. The recent shootings have raised questions about the morality of the movement as many unfairly blame Black Lives Matter for the atrocities in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
“The violence–and hate–filled messages pouring out of Black Lives Matter seek exactly this kind of bloody resolution, or revolution, though they cannot admit it in polite society,” said Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke. However, the shootings have little connection to the values of the movement, which seeks freedom and justice for African-Americans.
Attacking the activist movement for the deaths of these police officers defies reason and logic. Johnson and Long’s motivations had little to do with the values and goals of Black Lives Matter. Johnson, for example, was always associated on social media with groups such as New Black Panther Party, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, and the African American Defense League. All of these groups promote extremism, whereas Black Lives Matter aims to stands up against the systemic racism and brutality towards black people.
The media has created a prejudiced misrepresentation of the movement that is especially frustrating considering that several members of Black Lives Matter have even spoken out against anti-police violence.
Charlene Carruthers, national director of the Black Youth Project 100, a Chicago activist group, said, “There are people who believe that the work that we do is inherently dangerous and violent to the status quo, to American capitalism and to white supremacy. They will use any means to discredit our work.”
Nevertheless, the movement has been labeled “inherently racist” by high profile political figures such as former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Rebutting Giuliani’s criticisms and speaking about the extremists who perpetrated the violent killings, Vice President Joseph R. Biden said, “That group, that element of Black Lives Matter, doesn’t speak for all of Black Lives Matter and does not speak for most folks in the black community, both middle class and poor, who know they are more likely to be pulled over than the Caucasian guy.”
Indeed, criticism of the protests is the latest in a long line of attempts to shift blame to the victims of the issue rather than its proponents. This dissembling distracts from the real problem: the policing of black people. The media in particular has either failed or decided not to distinguish between the ideologies of Black Lives Matter, a peaceful organization, and the extremist groups with which Johnson and Long were affiliated.
Black Lives Matter, in fact, promotes justice for all victims of violence, whether committed by police or against police. None of the movement’s activists are saying that police lives, or “blue lives,” do not matter. But black lives are the ones that have been systematically targeted. And for now, black lives are the ones that need our attention the most.