First, we begin with the premises of the Black Lives Matter movement and what it stands for, at least as understood on the official website. The following is all taken, though selected for relevance, from the website’s What We Believe page, under the About Us tab.
- There is “rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state.”
- Black lives and communities “have been torn apart by state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism.”
- BLM “[has] helped catalyze other movements and shifted culture with an eye toward the dangerous impacts of anti-Blackness.”
- “Our continued commitment to liberation for all Black people means we are continuing the work of our ancestors and fighting for our collective freedom because it is our duty.”
- Despite the above mentions of violence and racism, “we are aware of the different ways we are impacted or privileged as Black people who exist in different parts of the world,” meaning other Black people might still have it worse than Black people in America, I presume.
- Members of the Black Lives Matter movement “embody and practice justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another.”
The paragraphs I omitted portray the Black Lives Matter movement as an all-inclusive effort that makes space for women, and queer and trans folk—and everything in between; people of different viewpoints; people up and down the economic and sociological spectrum, etc. The Black Lives Matter movement is signaling in all but name that, indeed, All Lives Matter, Mr. Counter-protester, but “To love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others.” I agree.
My interest lies in getting the counter-protester on the side of the Black Lives Matter movement, or to at least put that person in such a position where they can’t so easily or quickly disregard the point of the movement. Now, there’s nothing I can do against the decidedly Soviet-style font used throughout the website, or the frequent use of the word “Comrade,” or the intent to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement” but, I think we can still find common ground here.
Read the first two points again from the BLM website. The points express a hostility and antagonism against Black people that is not only systemic but encouraged by the state. The movement arose out of, not just the death of Trayvon Martin, but also in response to the acquittal of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Of course, Black communities have time and again sung and written about and spoken of and advocated against police brutality. In this sad sense, the BLM movement is nothing new. As the potential, if not actual, successor to the Black Panthers, the BLM movement should present their messaging in such a way that could not fairly be perceived as anti-White—which plagued the Black Panthers in the eyes of its opponents—but as all-American. This, sadly, won’t happen for reasons I’ll explain later.
Why my connection to the Black Panthers? The criticism leveled against the Black Panthers, and against Malcolm X as the face of it, was that it was anti-white, that it advocated for violence against white people. At a time when Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated for peaceful, anti-violent protest, the Black Panthers looked like the type of militant group that, if racist white people had their choice between the two, racist whites would not pick the latter. It is notable that the BLM website has surprisingly little mention of peace and I’ve yet to find a clear endorsement for non-violent protest. Instead I find the following:
“[Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc.’s] mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.”
“Combating,” is the language, with no mention of how that combat is to be waged. “Countering acts of violence,” is the phrase, with no limitation on how those acts of violence are countered. Again, stressing the inherently dangerous environment in which Black people must operate, and acknowledging an enemy that knows no remorse and is, in fact, actively involved in your oppression, it stands to reason that measures must be taken to provide for the common defense of Black people. The Black Panthers advocated for gun ownership. I believe that BLM should, as well.
Let’s imagine for a second that BLM suddenly becomes a movement against police brutality and for gun ownership. Right wing politicians and voters will have to grapple with the second item of the BLM platform rather than dismissively declaring “All Lives Matter” and then walking away, as they currently do. To have a group as young and expansive as BLM be on the side of the NRA will undoubtedly confuse the right and enrage the left, but not if what’s advocated for is clear. BLM would not be going so far as the right in advocating for all manner of guns to remain available, but it would go farther than the left in refusing to advocate for the ban of as many guns.
The 2nd Amendment right to bear arms is a constitutional right that extends to all Americans through the incorporation clause of the 14th Amendment. If you’re interested in the decision that made that happen, read the fascinating opinion written by Justice Alito, in McDonald v. City of Chicago.
In his 2010 SCOTUS opinion, Justice Alito walks us through a bit of history that focuses on the Reconstruction era that followed the Union’s victory in the Civil War. He noted how African Americans who returned to the South were actively prohibited by Southern legislatures from owning guns. Any African American who owned guns was commanded by force and violence, by militias and Southern police, to give them up. Recognizing the right to bear arms as essential to their own defense, African Americans in the South wrote to their congressmen and requested that this right be recognized, since they, too, were citizens of the United States and fit to benefit from the privileges of American citizenship. One of those privileges was the right to bear arms. Congress agreed and, since the South clearly hadn’t yet realized that they lost, passed the 14th Amendment, which states in Article 1:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (emphasis mine).
Sorry to make you scroll up and down here, but perhaps you’ll remember that the BLM website doesn’t paint the most hospitable environment for blacks. I don’t think it’s much of an argument that the post-Civil War South was even more inhospitable to blacks than the South today, but we needn’t compare. America today, BLM maintains, remains intolerably oppressive. If African Americans in the Reconstruction era requested that the right to bear arms be respected for them, why wouldn’t African Americans want to exercise that right today?
After all, the inadvertent messaging we hear following the killing of another African American at the hands of the police is how the police shot at an unarmed man. He or she posed no threat because they wielded no weapon, neither was a weapon in their possession. Granted, Blacks with guns have also been killed, but this further exposes, if not the racism of police officers, then certainly the anti-black bias of that particular officer. The message would then be a simple if-then statement: If there is no substantive police reform that results in the dramatic reduction, if not complete abatement, of killed African Americans, then we Americans will take steps to exercise our American right to defend ourselves. I don’t know how much more evidence we need that police reform has yet to make substantive progress…
Advocates of the second amendment want to see more Americans armed. If it turns out that these advocates don’t actually want to see Black Americans armed, then two things are accomplished: 1) That second amendment advocate will confront his own anti-Black bias if he can’t reconcile his support for arming Americans with the image of a gun-toting Black person; and 2) If the second amendment advocates realize they’re actually more racist than they care about the second amendment, then maybe they’ll tone down their advocacy. In either case, the political left wins.
Now, perhaps you agree with the movement, but also have an anti-gun stance. You could always register for a gun license but not actually get a gun. The effect will, in essence, be the same because you’ll be showing you’re actually ready to get a gun at any point, should you feel the need has arrived. You could go door to door while you’re registering people to vote and encourage them to also get their gun license. The news will report not only an increase in gun licenses, but also an increase in gun licenses by African Americans. If it’s the desire of second amendment advocates to see more Americans armed, then this news would be cause for celebration. Again, you don’t have to actually get the gun—just the act of getting the license may send a strong enough message to city leaders that if they want to stem the flow of gun ownership, then they need to enforce greater police accountability.
Now, here’s why BLM won’t take this position. Maybe you could say the Soviet-style font doesn’t make them Marxist, and neither does the frequent use of the word “Comrade,” and you could be right. But BLM isn’t an African American-centered movement. It’s a Black movement, yes, headquartered in the US, but its focus isn’t strictly or even overtly limited to the US. It’s actually not limited to any nation. The website reads: “[W]e must move beyond the narrow nationalism that is all too prevalent in Black communities. We must ensure we are building a movement that brings all of us to the front.”
What I prescribe here is an American solution to the problem of police brutality facing African Americans, in America. BLM’s view—at least those of its website curators—is expansive if you’re generous, overly broad if you’re not. Perhaps there are other ways to end the problem of police brutality against African Americans. At a time when it’s anathema to utter the phrase, “America First,” it is perhaps ironic that this is the path BLM’s leaders should follow if they seek to address the problems affecting African Americans, first.
The official BLM website seems ready to wield the hammer and sickle. Why not also the gun?