In the first part of my analysis on the “#Black Lives Matter” movement, I discussed the hypocrisy in their messaging regarding the roles of women, the disabled, homosexuals and transgenders. While I determined that their blatant marginalization of other blacks is both counterintuitive and hypocritical to their call to action, I would postulate that their messaging suggests a revival of the black separatist movements of the 20th century.
In their about page, they call for “Black people to love Black, live Black and buy Black, keeping straight cis Black men in the front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at all.”
Besides what I already analyzed in the previous article, they claim very broadly a type of black nationalism. Black nationalism is defined by oxforddictionaries.com as: “The advocacy of the national civil rights of black people, especially in the US.” While there is certainly nothing wrong with fighting for equal rights, their rhetoric suggests black empowerment through conscious separatism.
While the definition of black separatism has been interpreted many ways, the FBI and American Civil Liberties Union define black separatism as:
…a movement to create separate institutions for black people in societies historically dominated by whites, particularly in the United States. Black separatism’s specific goals historically fluctuated and differed from group to group. All share racial grievances with the U.S. government, most seek restitution, or governance base on religious ideology or social principals. Few seek physical separation from the continental U.S.
By this admittedly broad definition, #BlackLivesMatter is characterized very similarly to the black separatist movements. They claim racial grievances, and while their call to action remains ambiguous, we can derive from said grievances that they seek restitution, whether that be in the form of civil rights laws or affirmative action policies.
The graphic below, provided by Wikipedia, illustrates how the noble goals of black nationalism can quickly turn separatist as a means achieving community empowerment.
By purposefully isolating oneself from other communities economically (buying black), and culturally (living black), they have taken the first steps towards self-containment. I would predict the movement to soon advocate for separation of the races as a means of ending discrimination. The logic would seem to be that if black people had their own solely black community, there would be no chance that someone would discriminate against another black person.
One famous black separatist, Malcolm X, was once quoted saying, “You don’t integrate with a sinking ship.” He believed that efforts to integrate black people post-segregation were futile, because the racist beliefs of other Americans would prevent peaceful coexistence.
Malcolm X is often contrasted with another famous civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King. A personal hero of my own, the National Endowment for the Humanities nicely summarized his beliefs saying,
“the more excellent way or love and nonviolent protest [is a better] means of building an integrated community of blacks and whites in America. He rejected what he called ‘the hatred and despair of the black nationalist,’ believing that the fate of black Americans was ‘tied up with America’s destiny.’…King had faith that ‘the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God’ could reform white America through the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement.”
While the topic of my next article will be tactics of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, understanding the contrast in approaches between these two historical figures is essential to understanding the goals of this movement. Currently, supporters of the movement appear to resonate with the theories of Malcom X. If he were alive today I could easily see him as a leader of this movement saying, “See? I told you integration wouldn’t work!”
While the very existence of this movement years later would seem to validate his claims, I remain a passionate supporter of Dr. King’s approach instead. I truly believe all races can live in harmony, simply because—as I have said a million times—uncontrollable factors such as the color of your skin, do not matter. To me, separatism means giving up. Contrary to popular belief, we have made significant advances in race relations. The mere fact that I can have black friends is evidence of that. Maybe I only see this because I am a millennial and I was not taught prejudiced beliefs. Regardless, we cannot let our achievements go unnoticed, as modern social justice warriors seem to ignore. Otherwise, fears of possible discrimination will lead to panic and paranoia, as I will examine in the next article of this series.