Has anyone else lost sight of the message behind the Black Lives Matter movement, or is it just me?
Right now, Black Lives Matter is beginning to experience a burgeoning concern that develops for most social movements: its message becomes tainted because protestors don’t know what they’re actually raising awareness for.
Once a social movement becomes increasingly relevant in popular culture, it doesn’t take long for both its audience and following to proliferate.
But when it comes to social movements, having a large following and a large audience isn’t always beneficial. When a movement’s following becomes so large that it doesn’t fully understand its purpose, the large audience is always there to determine its morality – which is almost always a displeasing result. In some cases social protesters grow radically violent or simply do unintelligent things, but it’s this behavior that draws attention away from the purpose of the movement to illuminate the disturbance the movement has caused.
Some protesters are blemishing Black Lives Matter, and the movement as a whole needs to control its message, or its efficacy amongst the public will begin to decline.
That can’t be said for the movement’s current efficacy, however. As this Washington Post Poll shows, public opinion on racial equality in America has changed in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, likely because its successfully raised awareness through peaceful protests across the country. A Pew Research Center poll shows that in 2014, only 46% of Americans believed changes needed to be made to make blacks and whites more racially equal. Today in 2015, that number is 60%, nearly a 15% increase in just one year.
But, as Bernie Sanders realized over the weekend, not all protests are peaceful and productive. Sanders had his microphone taken from him by Black Lives Matter protesters at a campaign rally held in Seattle on August 8. Protesters refused to give back Sanders’ microphone and continued speaking, so Sanders left the stage and never gave his speech.
The move seems cowardly, but being as Sanders currently sits second in the democratic primary, it was likely a brilliant move of him to leave. Fellow democratic nominee Martin O’Malley was booed off the stage when he said “All Lives Matter” at a liberal conference in July. Unsurprisingly, O’Malley has remained irrelevant in the primary since his remarks and the movement has still refused to accept the phrase “all lives matter.”
Protesters taking Sanders’ microphone wasn’t quite as brilliant, on the other hand. Not only did it draw negative publicity to the movement, but they also shunned the best candidate for their cause and reportedly called the Seattle crowd “white supremacist liberals.”
Meanwhile, Sanders has been given a 97% rating by the NAACP and 93% by the ACLU, yet Black Lives Matter protesters feel the need to steal his stage, and then call his fans white supremacist liberals.
Issues have arisen in other cities as well. As recently as Monday, the St. Louis County executive declared a state of emergency in response to peaceful protests turned violent on the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, when reports emerged of gunfire being exchanged between protesters and police. Brown was 18 when he charged Officer Darren Wilson for his gun and was fatally shot on August 9, 2014. While these radical protesters think they are making a difference, they are actually continuing to dilute the movement’s message.
With these recent events in mind, there clearly appears to be a message issue the movement is witnessing.
Regardless of whether self-proclaimed Black Lives Matter activists are causing these disturbances, there is no doubt that violence and fruitless behavior seemingly follows the movement everywhere it goes. Along with violence, the movement carries the same narrow-minded thinking it supposedly wants to abolish. Does saying “all lives matter,” truly offend you? It shouldn’t, because it’s the truth.
What was once a flourishing, centered movement that impacted public opinion is now becoming a more selfish sideshow version of itself.
There is no telling what the movement will bring us before 2016 Presidential election. As a united, peaceful movement with a centered message, it can be an extremely effective tool for the Democrats. After its turn for the worse over the weekend, it may surprisingly help Republicans. One thing is for certain, though; if the movement wants to continue creating change in favor of its purpose, it will need to stop the violence and foolish behavior from occurring at its protests.