If you have a deep commitment to the BlackLivesMatter movement please do not read this article. It will only make you angry.
On the other had if you have some doubts about the political merit of the slogan, you might find it interesting. This work has two parts.
The first part is an analysis of an article posted in Everyday Feminism and widely reproduced with the title “Four Reasons Why Being Pro-Black Isn't the Same as Being Anti-White” by Wazi Maret Davis. (Ms Davis, born in 1944, was known for along time as Angela Davis.) I believe this very important article is the theoretical framework for the BlackLivesMatter slogan millions are now acting on.
The second part looks what generates the anger of the protesters: bi-partisan policies introduced since 1970 as manufacturers moved offshore looking for lower wages. They have resulted in police becoming well-armed security guards and a vast increase in US citizens in jail. These are used to subjugate the people for whom there is no longer paid employment.
PART I: WHY BEING PRO-BLACK ISN'T THE SAME AS BEING ANTI-WHITE
ONLY RACISTS OPPOSE THE SLOGAN 'BLACKLIVESMATTER'
In her article “Four Reasons Why Being Pro-Black Isn't the Same as Being Anti-White” Wazi Maret Davis comes very close to saying that any (white) person who objects to the slogan 'BlackLivesMatter' in “the present movement for Black lives” is a racist:
“In the present movement for Black lives, I've encountered many white people who have expressed negative, resentful, and antagonistic feelings about the unapologetic ways Black folks resist and lift themselves up.
“It seems, at times, as if the most 'well-intentioned,' or what you might call 'liberal,' of white people poignantly proclaim that AllLivesMatter before even attempting to mutter the words BlackLivesMatter - much less consider the very intentional relevance of that statement.
“These feelings are nothing new - in fact, white people centering whiteness have historically existed throughout Black resistance movements.
“Blackness, in this society, is seen as threatening and movements that uplift Black people are certainly not exempt from that perceived threat.”
She finds there are “well-intentioned” white people who do not like the slogan 'BlackLivesMatter', but is not surprised. There have always been “white people centering whiteness” who have been threatened by “movements that uplift Black people”.
Obviously she believes that the BLM movement is about “uplifting” black people, but it is just this question we need to examine. Unlike the Occupy Wall Street protests, where all violence was on the side of the police against the protesters, many BLM protests have been sparked serious violence by police and protesters. Further, the BLM movement is being funded by one of the wealthiest men in the world. It is beyond belief that the person who puts so much money into the movement, George Soros, has nothing to say about its political direction. We need to look Ms Davis' defence of the BLM movement before we can decide whether it can actually uplift black people.
IS 'BLACKLIVESMATTER' A THREAT TO WHITES?
Ms Davis begins by explaining that the media and political system have made whites in the US think that black liberation is directed against them. They have created “a false sense of threat in white America, when it was in fact white America that was the most violent and threatening towards the oppressed.” However she also says
“...the real threat to white America is not any Black revolutionary. The real threat is that they would lose a tremendous amount of their own privilege if they afforded Blacks with equal treatment and access to wealth, resources and livelihood.”
Can we ask how there is a “false threat” to whites from black liberation when Ms Davis says herself that equality between black and whites means whites “would lose a tremendous amount of their own privilege?” Is it not natural for anyone to be threatened by a serious loss of privilege? Have the media created a “false threat”? Ms Davis wants to dismiss the fears of whites as something created by the media, while at the same time insisting they are real. This is not a good beginning.
After this introduction she organizes her comments under four headings:
“1. I Don't Have to Hate White People in Order to Love My Blackness
(…) How we love ourselves and other Black people, when authentic, has nothing to do with hating white people.
“2. The War on Black People Is Deeply Intersectional
(…) Whites benefit from systems that are entirely too complex for generalizations and universalities. These systems, while they do prioritize white people under the value of white supremacy, they do not only benefit white people and they do not only benefit white people in one way.
“3. White Supremacy Manifests in Insidious and Interpersonal Ways
(…) The reasons we say "BlackLivesMatter" are not to say that only Black Lives Matter, but to say that we acknowledge the disproportionate violence Black folks experience that all lives do not have to. (...)
“4. It's Okay to Be Pro-Black in a World That's Anti-Black
(…) We have to convince ourselves every single day that we are worth something and that we are valuable, because we are surrounded by systems and a society that constantly devalues and dehumanizes us.
It is so radically important then, for us to be able to show both self and collective love.
“We know that we do not have to rely on these current systems because these systems were never meant to benefit us.
But once we are able to practice a radical self-love and collective love, we can create alternative systems that will allow us to thrive beyond basic survival.”
PERSONAL IDENTITY AND IDENTITY POLITICS
There are two different themes run together in her discussion. One is about the importance for blacks in having a healthy self-image, their personal identity. The other is about identity politics, which links your personal identity (your "colour") to a political action or group.
We all have a sense of our personal identity and self-worth, good or bad. There are many different components to our personal identity. We have a gender identity and we usually identify with a particular nation. Our skin colour is part of our identity, as well as our hair colour, religious beliefs or lack of them, our ancestors, traditions or customs. These are all part of who we are and there is nothing wrong with taking pride in these things about ourselves. In fact serious psychological and personal problems can develop if we don't like who we are.
This is an important part of our mental health, and much of what Ms Davis says about being black emphasizes just this point. Her first point (1) says clearly that when a black person loves their blackness this does not mean they hate people with a different colour skin or tradition. The importance of maintaining a positive self-image is repeated in point (4):
“We have to convince ourselves every single day that we are worth something and that we are valuable, because we are surrounded by systems and a society that constantly devalues and dehumanizes us. It is so radically important then, for us to be able to show both self and collective love.”
Anyone who objects to black people, or anyone else, having a healthy, positive self-image does not have their best interest in mind.
The other theme in her article is not just about personal self-identity.
“Loving Blackness, lifting up Blackness, and asserting Black Power can be frightening for a lot of white folks who just don't understand, who refuse to understand.”
Here we see the two themes run together. “Loving Blackness” and “lifting up Blackness” are concerned with promoting a healthy self-image for people having a black skin as part of their personal identity. The phrase “asserting Black Power” is concerned with political power. (Another somewhat different phrase “People Power” is also concerned with political power, but Ms Davis never uses this phrase.) She wants to direct people with a black skin as part of their personal identity into a movement seeking political power (only?) for people with a black skin, namely the BLM movement.
THOU SHALT NOT KILL BLACKS?
The first commandment, and the laws of virtually all countries, forbid killing any person, not just the killing of people of a certain kind. Any law or moral principle framed differently would obviously show bias. What would the rule: “Thou shalt not kill men.” tell women? What would the rule: “Thou shalt not kill Christians.” tell Jews? What would the rule: “Thou shalt not kill British people.” tell the inhabitants of other countries? So, what would the rule: “Thou shalt not kill blacks.” tell people who are not black?
Ms Davis seems to overlook the way a rule which is not a universal rule for all people makes those excluded from that rule somewhat nervous. What is the difference between "BlackLivesMatter” and “Thou Shalt Not Kill Blacks”? They protest or oppose the same thing, the killing of black people. Is it only racism that makes white people feel somewhat uncomfortable about this slogan?
Why is Ms Davis so antagonistic about people using or suggesting the slogan “AllLivesMatter”? Here is her answer:
“It seems, at times, as if the most 'well-intentioned,' or what you might call 'liberal,' of white people poignantly proclaim that AllLivesMatter before even attempting to mutter the words BlackLivesMatter - much less consider the very intentional relevance of that statement.”
She explains that people who use this slogan do not “consider the very intentional relevance” of the slogan “BlackLivesMatter”. So “AllLivesMatter” is not relevant but “BlackLivesMatter” is. Why is this? Is “AllLiveMatter” is not “relevant” because it does not draw attention only to the deaths of black people? Why are the deaths of other people not “relevant” to Ms Davis and the BLM movement?
BLACKS ARE DIFFERENT BECAUSE THEY HAVE EXPERIENCED MORE VIOLENCE THAN ANYBODY ELSE
Ms Davis answers this question as follows:
“The reasons we say BlackLivesMatter are not to say that only Black Lives Matter, but to say that we acknowledge the disproportionate violence Black folks experience that all lives do not have to.”
BlackLivesMatter does not mean only Black Lives Matter, but it emphasizes the “disproportionate violence Black folks experience”. In other words, blacks have experienced more or greater violence than other people have. One of the goals of the BML movement is to emphasize this.
This part of Ms Davis' defence is also a political message, not a message about the importance of blacks' self-esteem. Genuine and healthy self-esteem does not rest on our being “better” than others. Is Ms Davis suggesting that the only way blacks can have a good self-image is to emphasizing they are special by having suffered more than non-blacks?
The claim that blacks have suffered more than non-blacks seems to create a clear difference between blacks and the rest of the non-black population. While it is unlike some claims of difference, such as superior intelligence or cultural superiority, it is still a claim to another kind of difference, greater suffering. This approach is not unique to the BLM movement.
After WWII some Jewish leaders set up the Holocaust Museum to remember the many people killed by the NAZI regime. However from the outset they only recorded the deaths of Jewish victims. In fact the NAZIs killed communists, trade union leaders, homosexuals, the intellectually impaired, gypsies as well as millions of people in the Slavic countries like Poland, the Ukraine, and Russia. This is not to say there was no Holocaust of Jews. The point is that many more non-Jews were killed by the NAZIs than Jews. A memorial which only recognizes Jewish deaths singles them out as “special” or different in their suffering. Being different by having suffered more than others is still a way to say “We are Different from You”.
In the context of American history, there are others who might dispute the claim that blacks have suffered more than non-blacks. The indigenous people of what is now the United States died in large numbers after the arrival of the invaders from England, described as Pilgrims. Some of their suffering came from warfare and massacres, while new diseases may have killed even more.
The chief attraction of the New World for the Europeans was land. Landless peasants from Europe rushed to the New World for access to land. All of that land was taken from the indigenous people. Even the freed slaves in the South worked and lived on land their former masters had taken from the original inhabitants and were never given back. After the slaves were freed in the US the numbers of these former slaves increased steadily. However during that same time the number of indigenous people fell drastically. Can anyone doubt this happened because the original inhabitants were driven from the best land and forced to live in places the immigrants didn't want for themselves? So have blacks in the US actually suffered more than the indigenous people? In my view, the answer to this question is not obviously yes. Furthermore, how can we really answer such a question? Should we just add up the dead bodies on both sides? If we just count dead bodies, then the Jewish claim to greater suffering in WWII must be abandoned. More than 10 million slavs died at the hands of the NAZIS. So the apparently obvious claim than blacks have suffered more than non-blacks is really a highly contentious and probably impossible to justify as well.
DO CRITICS OF 'BLACKLIVESMATTER' ASSUME PRO-BLACK MEANS ANTI-WHITE?
Ms Davis particularly addresses those who would prefer 'AllLivesMatter' to 'BlackLivesMatter'. She says people advocating a slogan like 'AllLivesMatter' assume the pro-black slogan 'BlackLivesMatter' is directed against whites.
“When you take offense to a BlackLivesMatter protest because you believe they should be saying AllLivesMatter (or even WhiteLivesMatter) or when you take a direct offense to someone being "Pro-Black," it is presumptuous and telling of many things.
“First, it reveals the reinforcement of the white-black binary assumption - that is, if we are saying we are Pro-Black, that must mean we are anti-white.”
She insists people who prefer another slogan like 'AllLivesMatter' believe falsely that pro-black = anti-white, as if the only reason one could have for rejecting this slogan is by having this false belief. As explained above, to be against a healthy black self-identity would indeed be anti-black. There is nothing wrong with a healthy black self-identity. But there are serious doubts about identity politics, where having this or that personal identity means that you should support a given political movement. The heart of Ms Davis's claim is that if you are black or support blacks, you must accept only the 'BlackLivesMatter' political slogan. Any other slogan does not – she thinks – really support blacks, and so is evidence of white racism.
The reality is that 'BlackLivesMatter' is a political slogan which claims to advance the interests of black people in a political movement centered around people with a certain skin colour. The reason people - black and white - oppose the slogan because it is a political slogan based on the very same concepts as the segregationist policies of the past, and as we will see below does not really advance the interests of black people.
Few people have noticed that asserting there is a significant difference between people with darker skins and others revives the segregationist categories used to justify the need for special toilets and schools for blacks. You can only promote a different treatment for blacks if you think there is a real difference between blacks and everybody else.
Ms Davis uses this analogy to emphasize her point about how being pro-black is not anti-white:
“If I started a campaign for breast cancer awareness, would you then show up protesting the events because I did not talk about pancreatic or liver cancer? The answer is likely no.”
Of course the answer would be no. But this analogy is actually more revealing than she realizes. What if you used the slogan 'BlackBreastCancersMatter' in your campaign against breast cancer? This is not “anti-liver cancer” either, but it has the same problem as the 'BlackLivesMatter' slogan. Why should there be an emphasis on breast cancer in blacks? Why not 'BreastCancersMatter'?
Ms Davis seems to have forgotten one of the clever ways that the older policy of segregation was attacked. The story goes that a man who owned a segregated movie theatre was shown a line of people so arranged that at one end there was a perfect example of a “white” person and at the other end a perfect example of a “black” person. He was then challenged to show where he would draw the line between those he would admit into his theatre and those he would not. The fact that any such line would be arbitrary shows the use of the terms 'black' and 'white' as a way of distinguishing between people is itself arbitrary, relative and superficial. We all know black cars and white cars are basically the same. Does Ms Davis really think that people with different coloured skin are basically different? Who else thinks like that? The Klu Klux Klan.
There is absolutely no reason why we can't use a range of slogans to protest police violence. Do the police only kill blacks in the US? Are no whites, Chicanos, First Inhabitants, Chinese killed by police in the same way? They are all targets of police violence. So why not use slogans like 'StopPoliceViolence', 'StopPoliceKillings', 'StopPoliceMurder', 'JailPoliceKillers', etc? Why not? Because someone is trying to frame all anger, resentment and protest in KKK's segregationist language, the language of skin colour. It revives black vs white thinking long after the old segregationist institutions have died and been buried. And for good measure you are labelled a racist if you object to this plan to institute a divide and rule strategy devised by the rulers of the US.
'BLACKLIVESMATTER' IS JUST DIVIDE AND RULE FOR CITIZENS OF THE US
The best and oldest method for conquerors to rule over a conquered people is to use the tactic of divide and rule. A study of the British Empire provides example after example. Tribe against tribe. Religion against religion. One ethnic group against another. Ms Davis realizes that white supremacy manifests in insidious ways. Unfortunately she has not managed to escape the insidious manifestation of white supremacy herself. Where do the concepts of “black” and “white” come from?
They originated hundreds of years ago when the British and other Europeans began enslaving the people of Africa and using them to work the land in the New World. Masters always need a way to distinguish themselves from the slaves. In the slave societies of Ancient Greece the Greek slaves were not thought of as humans, but as talking animals, which distinguished them from "dumb" animals like cattle or sheep. They were considered not to be intelligent because they could not speak Greek. They made “bar, bar” sounds and were call barbarians. The same kind of discrimination can be found today in the English class system. If you have the "wrong" accent there are some very well paid jobs you need not apply for. Skin colour in the Ancient World did not have the meaning it does today. This only became important with the rise of the African slave trade.
DIVIDE AND RULE IN THE USA SHOWS UP AS IDENTITY POLITICS
“Identity politics divide and fragment the debt-serf class into ethnic and religious silos that are propagandized into viewing each other as enemies rather than colleagues."(1)
Through constant exposure to messages from a media cartel owned by a small number of like-minded corporations, people hear themselves described as “whites”, “blacks”, “Mexican-Americans”, “Chicanos”, while the First Nations people, the American Indians, are completely ignored. The BML movement is successful precisely because it draws on these ready-made patterns of thinking which are seen by many as the “natural” way to understand themselves and others in their society.
While 'BlackLivesMatter' seems a “radical” slogan in the face of blatant criminal behaviour by police, in fact it accepts the traditional Them-and-Us discrimination which lies at the heart of the abuse most of us wish to condemn. Such abuse should be countered with 'AllLivesMatter' or similar slogans to avoid reinforcing the artificial differences that are used to distract us from our similarities.
“To think the lives of one group are of more importance than those not in that group divides those who are special, who deserve special attention, from those who are not.”(2)
“The truth is we have more in common with people of different ethnicity and religions than we can possibly know in a totalitarian system drenched in the divisive propaganda of identity politics.”(3)
IDENTITY POLITICS AND REAL POLITICS
Identity politics uses features of our identity to give us a political direction. For example, “in the U.S. both political parties deploy identity politics, but the Democrats in particular depend on the 'if you don't vote the Democratic ticket, you're a traitor to your race' line of propaganda.”(4) Real politics concentrates on economic issues, issues around social class. Our social class looks like just another thing about ourselves. People can be seen as, and think of themselves as black and working class, or white and working class. But there is a profound difference between your skin colour and your class. Your class position is determined by your place in the economic system, traditionally stated as your relations to the means of production. Your class is determined by your relations to others within that system. You are not born with it – like your genetic makeup – and if the system is changed then you no longer have that position.
When the slaves in the US were released about 150 years ago, their class position changed overnight while their skin colour did not. It is likely that their being slaves influenced many things about them, so there is a connection between their class position and other things about them, but these too can change and are not inherited like skin or eye colour.
Further, your class position is not like your religion. Your religion is often picked up from your parents or your community, but you on your own can change your religion, and over their lives some people do. Your class position cannot be chosen in the same way. You can't become a capitalist by simple “conversion”. You need money. You can't become a member of the working class by “conversion” either. There must be a capitalist around to offer you a job.
Some people can live their whole lives and have no real interest in their class position. If they have enough money and security perhaps it does not matter to them. Also people tend to think about enhancing their own position and not worry about the way the wider class system around them works. However in times of social crisis, when the structure of the class system harms more and more people, the only way this can be fought is to attack the class system itself. For this to happen those attacking the system must unite with as many of the people who also suffer from the structure of the system to force it to change.
It is here that a concern for personal identity needs to be expanded. “White” and “black” people need to realize that while they have different skin colours and different personal or family histories, nothing is going to change in their material circumstances unless they open up to the idea that they both are the same in their class position. In spite of their perceived differences, they must realize that they have a fundamentally common interest to protect and defend. In hard times, thinking your enemies are “white” or “black” will only perpetuate the class system which is destroying the lives of all working-class people, as well as many others who do not have the highest incomes. The US and all other countries in the “free world” are ruled by the super-rich through giant banks, corporations, hedge funds, etc. Until this changes, things will only get worse.
PART II: INCREASING POLICE VIOLENCE SINCE THE 1960's
WHY IS THERE AN INCREASE IN POLICE VIOLENCE?
Some have argued that police killing of blacks has its beginnings in the US slave system. Of course there is some connection here, but this does not explain why it is getting much worse now, over 150 years later. What are the factors which explain why this is so much more common now that in 1960’s during the Civil Rights era?
It is easy to see why blacks and some whites see the increase in lawless police violence as “racist". However Chris Hedges has a different and more frightening view. With the decline in manufacturing which began in the 1970's, black and white workers have found it harder and harder to find jobs. This has led to an increasing number of “unnecessary” people who were not integrated into the regular workforce. As a result
“…the corporate state needed harsher mechanisms to subjugate a population it condemned as human refuse. Those on probation and parole or in jails or prisons grew from 780,000 in 1965 to 7 million in 2010. The kinds of federal crimes punishable by death leaped from one in 1974 to 66 in 1994, thanks to the Clinton administration. The lengths of prison sentences tripled and quadrupled. Laws were passed to turn inner-city communities into miniature police states. This had nothing to do with crime.”(5)
In other words, after 1970 when numbers of unemployed started to rise, the police and prison system ceased to be about “fighting crime” and became a system of social control. Hedges notes that in a book entitled “The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America”, Naomi Murkawa
“…documents how the series of 'reforms' enacted to professionalize police departments resulted in placing more money and resources into the hands of the police, giving them greater power to act with impunity and expanding legally sanctioned violence. All penal reform, from President Harry Truman’s 1947 Committee on Civil Rights report to the Safe Streets Act of 1968 to the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 to contemporary calls for more professionalization, have, she notes, only made things worse.”(6)
More blacks are the victims of police violence because they experience more poverty, but whites should take no comfort from this. The legalized injustice they face will be used against whites as well when the social and economic conditions created by the ruling class deteriorate further:
“State-administered violence is all that lies between the corporate state and widespread unrest. The power elites know it. They also know that as this unrest begins to define the white underclass, the legal and physical shackles perfected for poor people of color can easily be expanded. Rights in America have become privileges. And the corporate state has created legal mechanisms, including the loss of our right to privacy, to remove these privileges the instant it feels threatened.”(7)
There are four messages here, two for “blacks” and two for “whites”. The first message for blacks is that the current violence against them is not just motivated by racism, hatred of blacks. It is part of the institutionalized violence necessary for the 0.00001% to rule over all of us. It is not “personal”, not about them. The totally corrupt and greedy rulers of the US and the “West” need such violence to maintain their control in the US and overseas. Just protesting about “racist police violence” will never achieve its goal. As Hedges says “The corporate state, until it is destroyed, will do what it is designed to do—kill with impunity.” The state itself must be attacked, including the super-rich rulers of the state. The second message is that to destroy the corporate state, blacks must work together with whites and everyone else who will benefit from ending the rule of the super-rich.
The first message for whites is that they will be next. The illusion of thinking the violence is just directed against blacks could blind them to the reality that when the time comes, they will get the same treatment. And the second message for whites is the same as the second message for blacks. They can only improve their lives and the legal and political system of their country by working together with all who will benefit from the destruction of this state and building another.
This is the ultimate failing of the BLM movement. It is deliberately aimed at blacks, but on their own black protests against the police will not change anything. And since it is politically controlled by Soros and his agents, it can only be a tool of the super-rich in their war with the people of the US. What better way to deal with your “opposition” than to secretly determine their policies and actions? This will insure that they play right into your hands.
THE SOCIAL REALITY IN THE USA TODAY
Two graphs can help us understand the social background behind the increasing police violence in the US. First we can look at the massive increase in the prison population since 1971 with the beginning of the “War on Drugs”.(8)
The second graph shows the distribution of income growth since 1993 in the US.(9) Over the three periods covered, the top 1% in the US has increased their income by about 10%. The rest of the population – including the “blacks” following the BLM movement – has seen their incomes stagnate to almost no increase from 2009-2012.
Furthermore according to Berkeley economics professor Emmanuel Saez 95% of income gains since 2009 have accrued to the top 1%. After 1995 the spending of those in the top 5% of income levels began to rise faster than the other 95% of the population. Then, about 2008 the spending of most in the US remained the same while the spending of the top 5% has continued to increase at about the same level.(10)
So why does George Soros and the monopoly media owners in the US want to promote “black” against “white” thinking?(11) Because it helps them direct ordinary people's dissatisfaction with their worsening financial position to other people in the same position as themselves. This will stop them directing their attention to the super-rich .00001% who are increasing their wealth at the expense of the 99%. As explained by Charles Hugh Smith:
“Identity politics eliminate the potential for class consciousness that crosses ethnic and religious boundaries. As noted yesterday in 'Our Impoverished, Pathological Society', 'race is not a significant determinant of social polarization in today's America. It is class that really matters'.”(12)
PS: This article was inspired by an event which took place in Adelaide on the 30th of July 2016. During a rally demanding an end to abuse of indigenous children in detention a few people started chanting 'BlackLivesMatter'. However an indigenous participant asked them to chant 'AllLivesMatter' instead, which they did.
PPS: A discussion of George Soros can be found at the end of my article:
Not 'Black Lives Matter' but 'ALL LIVES MATTER' http://australianvoice.livejournal.com/20603.html
“Four Reasons Why Being Pro-Black Isn't the Same as Being Anti-White” by Wazi Maret Davis
12. Ibid. The article “Our Impoverished, Pathological Society” can be found here: http://www.oftwominds.com/blogsept16/ill-society9-16.html