By Tim Hjersted
Dec 18, 2014
There are myriad reasons why the rallying hashtag for the movement that grew out of #Ferguson is #BlackLivesMatter and not #AllLivesMatter. See this, this, this, and this for a few examples, including this statement from the people that first created the hashtag.
The fact that these reasons have to be spelled out just shows how far we have to go to correct the miseducation of the American public. The confusion and offense taken by people who don't understand the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag underscores precisely why it is needed.
One point that the discussion raises for me is just how thoroughly America's history has been sanitized and whitewashed. People think that colonialism and slavery are things of the past, but the reality is that, while progress has been made, the legacy of colonialism, slavery and institutional racism remain in various forms today, but the means have become more covert.
Chattel slavery is no more, but for-profit prisons house more people of color today than there existed slaves 200 years ago. "Slave patrols" are no more, but the modern-day police forces that evolved from those slave patrols continue to kill, harass, arrest and incarcerate people of color far more aggressively than they do whites. Colonialism is another word that is thought of as a thing of the past, because neo-colonialsim now operates under the guise of 'globalization' and 'free trade' - decimating and exploiting the lives and lands of other countries to the benefit of those at the top of the economic hierarchy. But all of this is hidden, obfuscated by the narratives and justifications of the dominant culture's mass media, educational system and government.
The protests after Ferguson start to make a lot more sense when you look at them from the historical perspective of the long-standing US war against Black America.
To learn that there is in fact a war against Black America is the first step.
That there *was* a war on Black America should be common knowledge by now, but it doesn't seem like America has any memory of the fact that there was a radical black organizing movement in the 60s and 70s which was violently and systematically crushed by the state. In light of COINTELPRO, this is a well established fact. But it's not surprising that so many people have not been informed about this, considering our school and media have not made it a priority to educate the collective mind on this topic.
What is perhaps even less well known by white America is that this war never ended with the revelation of the COINTELPRO program; it just shifted to using more covert and indirect means: The war on Black America became the War on Drugs and the War on Crime. Having effectively neutralized black aspirations for truly revolutionary change around this time, the US establishment shifted its focus from disruption to sustained suppression under the cover of its police, laws and prison system.
Ferguson represents a resurgence of political activity among black youth, and I think it's important that people understand that this movement is arising around these racial issues of historical oppression. The struggle in Ferguson, NYC, and all across the country is a part of the same struggle going back 400 years.
#BlackLivesMatter is surprising to white people because the war against Black America has been made invisible to them for the last 40 years (assuming they were aware of it back then, which most I'm sure were not). But the war continues.
Billions of federal funds have been poured into this war, spending money on incarceration and police instead of putting those funds into alleviating poverty. Decades of such priorities should be proof enough that black lives do not matter in America. Beyond killing black youth in the streets, the fact that the government would systematically pour funds into policing and imprisoning blacks at far higher rates than whites for decades rather than spending that money on reducing the poverty inherited by generations of racism and slavery... well it just goes to show whose lives matter and are worth treating with dignity.
So, long story short, this is why the rally hashtag is blacklivesmatter. For uninformed activists or just the general (white) public to promote the alllivesmatter hashtag shows a fundamental not-knowingness of the historical reality that this movement is coming out of.
I have seen at least one activist page on Facebook question whether police brutality is really about race or whether it's an issue that affects everyone and is more about power's war against its people generally. While it is certainly true that the police state will target anyone that threatens power or property and will deploy ruthless force against any and all activist movements... the war against the black civilian population is undeniable and exhaustive in its reach. So to promote the alllivesmatter hashtag or a race-blind police state critique at this point I think is effectively co-opting the energy and organizing efforts of the movement, turning it away from its radical and original intention and away from the struggle which is absolutely essential for the country to address.
There is certainly a time to criticize the growing police state which affects us all, but solidarity right now means spending time to support the growth of the #BLM movement. It just may well be our best shot at revolutionary, transformative change in this country.
To achieve this, America has to come to grips with the realities of imperialism, colonialism, and racism which have defined its history up to the present day. BlackLivesMatter reveals these uncomfortable truths, and discussing it is a gateway to that transformation in consciousness.