BLM and its threat to racial progress – Conservative Article
This year, the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) has skyrocketed to the top of the public consciousness. When I first became aware of its message I was wholly supportive. I had recently seen the shocking video of George Floyd being killed by a police officer. This video made me angry, and I quickly moved to support the BLM movement.
But what was I really supporting? I didn’t really know. I knew that I supported the notion that black people’s lives do matter just as much as anyone else’s. But what did the movement stand for really?
I want to start off by saying that the situation of black American’s is, too often, unacceptable; and that the very real racism that they face is disgusting, and I want to condemn this in the strongest possible terms. In this article, I wish to make the case against the methods, and certain aims, of one certain organisation: BLM.
I started to see calls to ‘defund the police’, I knew I most definitely didn’t support this. Then I saw the pulling down of the Colston statue in Bristol – an act that is not supported by the majority of Bristolians. I began to speculate, would the vandals then also pull down the various schools, hospitals, and charities set up by Colston? This also made me wonder: is this movement actually about making a positive change toward racial equality, or more about a political agenda, and woke tokenism?
The more I looked into this matter the more I came to the realisation that it was the latter. BLM does not believe that change can happen in the current, capitalist system, and so it advocates for a revolutionary change. To an anarchist system of social (dis)organisation. This is clearly political.
I have many friends who have openly supported BLM and who are most certainly not anarchists. And this is where I feel BLM has tricked us, and will only lead to greater division.
The truth is that under the ‘oh so evil’ capitalist system black people’s lives have improved immeasurably. It was free-market forces that led to the abolition of slavery. It was free-market forces that led to the full incorporation of the black community in the workforce (leading to political and civil rights). And now it is free-market forces that are putting black people and their wants and needs higher in the corporate mind-set.
Ethnic minorities in the UK have a purchasing power of £300 billion and spend more per person than their white counterparts on things like cinema tickets, new phones, and beauty products. This has led to companies shifting their focus onto the black community.
Look at films like Black Panther which enjoyed the 5th highest-grossing opening weekend of any film in history. Look at the representation of black women on ads for beauty products and the ever-growing variety of makeup shades in Boots etc. Or Look at the way in which companies are practically falling over themselves to include black actors in their adverts. These are real, material victories for the black community, things that I celebrate with them and I want to see more of. Victories that are the product of simple supply-and-demand capitalism.
What BLM has managed to do is capture the genuine anger of people across the world and bend this to serve their own political agenda. They have told us that we need to defund the police in order to be safe on the streets. An oxymoron that this time last year would have been laughed out of the room. Something that has also led to a steep rise in violence against the police. They have told us that anyone who is not with them is against them.
This ‘us-versus-them’ mentality has ripped through social media with a large degree of success; supported by the new political titans of our age: TikTok influencers who have raised a lot of money for the BLM movement. Sportspeople and many corporations have ‘taken-the-knee’ more in order to appease the mod than to actually show support for real progress.
But what has this actually changed? These displays of tokenism don’t seem to have made any real difference, but how could they? They are often empty, one-off gestures that mean nothing.
Except for one thing, they are given BLM an almost cult level of reverence among the young generation. A generation that generally does not know what BLM actually stands for. To use the millions of donated pounds and dollars to fund anti-police and anti-capitalist pressure groups and campaigners. While simultaneously driving a wedge between race communities. By advocating that black people should shop in black-owned shops, and white people should keep their nose out of black culture, they segregate us. Something that I think the great Dr King and Mandela would feel deeply uncomfortable with.
I want to stress that I am absolutely outraged by what has happened in America, and elsewhere, at the hands of police. We need change as the status quo is not acceptable, but this simply is not the way to go about it.
While BLM might be enjoying a moment in the limelight, I am confident that they will fail in their hard-left agenda. As the world goes back to work, they will fall back into obscurity. I recognise that there are real issues in western society that do disadvantage the black community. These will be fixed by market forces, not ‘wokeness’. I am also confident that real aspiration will outdo woke tokenism in the end; that the market will continue to self-correct and thus give more opportunity to those that will work for it, regardless of race.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, George Myers.
Point of Information
Erratum – A Labour Response
Firstly, the BLM movement is about so much more than just George Floyd. By failing to recognise this, George sets a tone that downplays the urgency of the movement. Here are just some of the executions committed at the hands of police in recent years. Here is a list that involves earlier cases. This is a Wikipedia article that documents the long history of police brutality in the United States. And, here is research that links modern-day police shootings of black people to historical lynchings.
Defund the police does not mean ‘remove all funding for the police’; granted, this is confusing. But with a quick google search, we can all find out what it really means. An article for the New York Times by Mariame Kaba titled ‘Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police’ actually makes no such demands. Instead, it calls for ‘cutting the budget in half’ and making the police ‘obsolete’ by gradually crowding them out with alternative services. This is totally different from the abolition that George fears. Having a misleadingly extreme title is not something that leftists are exclusively guilty of.
The argument that protest-actions are only justified if a majority of people are in favour of them is absurd. Protesting is a way of overcoming the tyranny of the majority. Without protest, we would not have had the great strides in de-segregation and equality made by Dr King and Nelson Mandela that George appeals to.
The two great achievements of the right-wing in recent years: Brexit and Trump, were not supported by a majority of the electorate. Yet both have influenced the fate of humanity at a higher magnitude than pulling down a statue of a slave-trader. Interestingly, if George cares about majorities so much, perhaps he will be moved to redistribute wealth on the basis that much higher income equality is desired by 93% of Americans.
However, I doubt this massive majority will move George to reconsider his worship of the divine fairness of the invisible hand. Market forces, he says, have improved a lot of black people in America greater than any ‘revolutionary’ action.
George makes the argument that because black people’s lives improved under capitalism, black anti-capitalists are misguided to want to improve or overcome the system’s inherent oppressions. This is tantamount to the fast gotcha’s that basement-libertarians zing their left-wing buddies with: “criticising capitalism… on an iPhone” gotcha, “criticising society… while participating in society” gotcha.
George follows this sketch with a Whig history of black liberation that attempts to put the whole thing down to ‘free-market forces’ – a butcher’s reduction that would make even Milton Friedman wince. The evidence he provides for this extraordinary history contradicts his argument.
It is a list of legal cases, Abolition movements, and Boycotts which are all not the free-market, they are all moral and political acts. I wonder also if George is aware that after the British abolition of slavery, slavery continued in America and did not begin to be rolled back until the Union won a bloody battle against the South (a particularly revolution-like non-market force).
Finally, I do not understand how something can simultaneously be ‘woke tokenism’ and revolutionary anarchism. Nor do I understand how black actors in adverts is an example of ‘real, material victor(y)’ (rather than woke tokenism), but protesting the executions of black people by police is not?
Shows what I know.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Joseph Cradick
Silence is not the option for change, BLM is – A Liberal Response
The one thing I liked about this article was the avoidance of jumping on the ‘woke’ bandwagon.
Beyond that, however, there are no points of agreement between myself and George. I don’t think supporting the progression towards ending systemic racism, following the ongoing deaths in the hands of the police, can be reduced to ‘woke tokenism’.
To not understand what this movement stands for suggests being undereducated about the topic and/or ignorant to the existence of your own white privilege. Whilst I can see why the black square on Instagram can be critiqued as merely a symbolic act, it was important.
Rather than needless scrolling, I was looking at the links to articles, videos, and influencers linked to these black squares. It helped me realise the extent and depth of ongoing racism. Which as a white woman is often hard to perceive, I don’t experience it after all.
The campaign to defund the police is nothing new. The US police budget had tripled in the last four decades, but this does not correlate with improvements. Not only is under half of violent crime solved but the police increase racial segregation by targeting black communities.
When four times as many black people are arrested for drugs, despite the same level of drugs use as white counterparts, you have to question whether it’s the drug use itself being targeted.
Protesters are campaigning for a fairer and more efficient use of public money. Defunding the police would enable a huge injection into social services preventing the crime in the first place. It is not a call for anarchism but a reform in how we manage society.
The suggestion that free-market forces lead to the abolition of slavery is wrong. The abolition of slavery was a long painful process of political campaigning, not a success of capitalism. Racism is rooted in capitalism.
I am not proposing a class reductionist approach, I recognise racism is a multifaceted issue, however racial economic inequality leaves black citizens systematically disempowered. On average a white person is expected to earn 28% more than black counterparts, just for being born white.
This lack of economic power limits black citizens’ access to positions of authority. Just look at the historic makeup of lawmakers and enforcers. For a nation of immigrants, the US is worryingly whitewashed.
The racial progress mentioned is limited to increasing the diversity for consumerism, however, racism is far more deep-rooted than this. Furthermore, the issue remains of why it took so long for these changes to be made. A bit of diversity does go a long way, but this is not exactly moral compensation for the structural discrimination of capitalism. Racism is not going to be fixed by market forces.
But again, BLM is primarily about the violence black communities face by institutional structures. Our consciousness needs to be raised. If all lives were treated equally there would be no need for movements such as BLM, but surely this can not be what you’re suggesting?
P.S. As a Bristolian I support the removal of the Colston statue. Bristol would not be what is without the slave trade, but this doesn’t make this history acceptable.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Abby Milnes
I am a graduate of the University of Exeter where I studied politics, philosophy and economics. I used this fantastic opportunity to pursue my deepest interests in the subjects of moral philosophy and political psychology.