Yes, black lives matter -- no ifs, ands or buts about it.
I’m black and I believe systemic racial injustice has devalued the progress America has made elsewhere. Mass incarceration, police brutality and economic/social inequality for black Americans should be spoken about loudly and publicly.
But there is a difference between protesting and insulting. It is one thing to inform; it's another to simply speak out the side of your neck.
The Black Lives Matter movement in Philadelphia, once known for its ability to address serious social justice issues, is no longer strategic, intelligent or mature in its methods of raising consciousness.
In the past, I have defended many of its protests. I backed BLM members who spoke out at this year's Mummers Parade when blackface performers offended the community. Last year’s #SayHerName rally outside City Hall was a brilliant way of challenging sexism while calling for Sandra Bland, the black educator who died in police custody after a traffic stop in Texas.
But this week, on the anniversary of the death of Freddie Gray, 25, who died from injuries sustained in police custody, Philly’s BLM has taken a disappointing turn.
“Don’t vote for Hillary, she’s killing black people,” BLM members chanted during a Center City demonstration down Market Street on Tuesday. Some held signs bearing the words “KKKillary Clinton” and images of black people who have died in police custody.
This mixed association didn’t make any sense to me. As someone who wanted to mourn another needlessly lost life, statements about presidential nominees were a distraction.
BLM took a similar, tone-deaf approach at a Hillary Clinton rally here Wednesday. I was sitting on the stage and saw a handful of BLM members attempt to disrupt the rally with placards reading, “You’re Not Welcome Here” and “Stop Killing Black People.”
This is likely in reference to the 1994 crime bill Clinton lobbied for as first lady. Several justice scholars now hold that law responsible for the country's current mass incarceration levels. But referencing a 22-year-old bill Clinton lobbied for before she was in elected office -- and calling her a mass murderer for doing so -- isn't fair.
Philadelphia Magazine reported that the protesters told a black security guard, “Old master got you out here?” as they were being taken out.
The disrespect continued after the event. One of my black colleagues was taunted with insensitive remarks about their blackness and support of Hillary. Protesters called Clinton a "slave master" and black supporters, who were visibly disgusted, “house slaves."
I’ve had just about enough of watching activists from this movement taint social justice efforts with divisive antics. Philly’s BLM has now turned off potential black supporters with a new agenda and tactics that make the group look more like a hashtag and less like a stable coalition.