Don’t Forget: Black Lives Matter

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Dennis Sanders

Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis, MN.  You can follow Dennis through his blogs, The Clockwork Pastor and Big Tent Revue and on Twitter.  Feel free to contact him at dennis.sanders(at)gmail(dot)com.

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39 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    The groups protesting do themselves no good when they do stupid shit like this:

    Little Mermaid: https://people.com/human-interest/little-mermaid-statue-in-denmark-vandalized-with-graffiti-that-reads-racist-fish/

    Portland Elk: https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2020/07/iconic-portland-elk-statue-removed-from-downtown-after-fire-set-during-protest.html

    Emancipation Statue: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/27/us/politics/lincoln-slave-statue-emancipation.html

    The first two are just stupid, the last, it’s just pathetic. There was a video of an elderly black guy trying to make the crowd understand what it meant. They didn’t care. They just want to tear it all down. Claira Janover is a perfect example–doesn’t have a f’in clue. https://nypost.com/2020/07/01/harvard-grad-claira-janover-lost-deloitte-job-over-tiktok-stab-threat/ No understanding, forethought, or future thinking about what might come of their actions. Is any of this really helping the cause, or just hardening resistance?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird
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      says:

      The video over the Emancipation Statue had me all kinds of confused. She was screaming in his face “YOU LOOK LIKE ME WHY ARE YOU FIGHTING ME” and I mostly thought of DARVO.

      Claira Janover has a gofundme. It’s very recently passed the $10,000 mark.Report

      • Avatar Damon
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        says:

        “Claira Janover has a gofundme. It’s very recently passed the $10,000 mark.” That’s disappointing. Stupidity and casual threats of stabbing should not be rewarded.Report

    • Avatar George Turner
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      says:

      Activists ripped down a statue of Frederick Douglas. Going by what they target, I don’t think a person could distinguish BLM from Antifa from the KKK, as if the activists were thinking “pro-slavery, anti-slavery, it’s all just slavery!”

      It does lend credence to my hypothetical that David Duke hacked all the activists iPhones and is playing them like puppets just to troll us and set race relations back sixty years.Report

    • Avatar Damon
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      says:

      This dude sums the whole thing up nicely.

      Report

      • Avatar InMD
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        says:

        Pretty accurate take. I thank God every day that social media did not exist when I was young and reckless.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon
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        says:

        I agree with him, but I doubt he will get his dream, because the people engaging in cancelling A) See themselves as righteous actors, and B) get off on it (until it bites them in the ass).

        The only way Cancel Culture dies is if we, as a society, either make it painful to cancel someone, or make the action irrelevant*.

        *Which is how we overcame moral scolds in the past. If no one cares how many times a girl has sex before marriage, the moral scolds who try to shame the girl have no real power.Report

        • Avatar Damon
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          says:

          I think it’ll come to an end a different way. When the those who use it the most end up getting consumed by it. When the system begins to eat itself, it’ll end. But before that, there will be collateral damage, but I won’t cry a tear for those who advocated using cancel culture getting consumed by it. I’ll smile a little smile.Report

  2. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been thinking the same thing about trying to solve structural problems with cosmetic changes. On the plus side, people are *still* matching for police reforms in pretty great numbers. But, yeah, pulling Aunt Jemima feels like a sop.Report

    • Avatar Nevermoor
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      says:

      The people who made that choice don’t have any votes in the senate, though. I dont see why doing what you can in your sphere is a bad thing.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F.
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        says:

        Yeah, I do agree. I just think that it’s been easy for people to do symbolic work , but if racism is a structural problem- I think it is!- we’re going to have to do the harder structural work.

        So, for instance, my local newspaper has been doing very good articles on Black Lives Matter and racism. It’s a good thing. But it doesn’t change the fact that everyone who writes or edits for the paper is white. The boutique store down the street has a Black Lives Matter sign in their window, which is good. But it’s still a shop where well-to-do white women sell pricey clothes to well-to-do white women that are all designed by… you guessed it, entrepreneurial white women.

        I see a lot of white people doing very good work that doesn’t really cost them anything. So, it’s not a bad thing. It’s just not structural change.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon
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          says:

          You can also look at how the paper reports on local police issues. Are they supporting BLM but reporting on the police in a measured passive voice they refused critical analysis….Report

  3. Avatar Kristin Devine
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    says:

    Wonderful piece. Thank you.Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    I share some of the sentiments here, that much of what goes on in the name of promoting justice is silly window dressing or facile symbolism or even craven opportunism.

    But I think the war analogy helps here. Moving from one status quo to a new reality, changing society to function differently, to recognize a new set of norms and mores is a massive task.

    Societal change, by definition involves mobilizing hundreds of millions of people in thousands of different organizations to move towards a common goal. Except that unlike an army, there is no central command, no discipline of the troops. No one can be court-martialed for making the wrong move or failing to follow directions.

    If some corporate branding consultant sees people marching in the street chanting “Black Lives Matter!” and immediately thinks “Hey, know what would be cool? Lets change the name of our pancake syrup!” there is no general to overrule him.

    In a societal movement, everyone is their own little platoon, everyone is their own strategic planner.

    And wars are always messy and have collateral damage. History books and Hollywood movies like to tidy things up and make it look very neat and orderly where the damage is precisely targeted to just the guilty, and the violence is in exact measured doses to even the scales of justice. But of course it was never that way and it isn’t that way now.
    And further, most of the effort expended in war is wasted and unproductive or at least appears that way at the moment.

    None of which is a defense of stupidity or malice or cruelty. I wrote an angry letter denouncing the rioters who damaged my neighborhood as cosplayers wanting to be revolutionaries for a night before returning home to safety leaving behind a trail of senseless destruction of people’s lives who had nothing to do with the injustice.

    But I see the city council moving rapidly on defunding and reorganizing the LAPD and I know that were it not for the riots and damage this wouldn’t be happening.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird
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      says:

      I wrote an angry letter denouncing the rioters who damaged my neighborhood as cosplayers wanting to be revolutionaries for a night before returning home to safety leaving behind a trail of senseless destruction of people’s lives who had nothing to do with the injustice.

      How much of a response did this letter get? Did someone write a response explaining the motivations of the protesters?

      Do you have any idea of how many eyeballs saw it?Report

  5. Avatar Aaron David
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    says:

    A powerful piece Dennis.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Malcolm X had a great line (I’m sure you’ve seen it, it’s everywhere) talking about how it’s easy to give symbolic victories instead of, you know, real change.

    The problem is that real power is invested in not changing stuff. Oh, real power doesn’t mind if superficial stuff changes. Here, let’s get rid of Uncle Ben off of the rice box. How’s that? Sorry, we’re not going to change the whole “policing for the rich” thing. At the same time that Minneapolis was talking about Abolish the Police and how that doesn’t mean “abolish the police” and how it *REALLY* meant an 8% reduction in projected budget growth (well, technically, that 8% was going to be transferred to the training budget), the various people on the board who were explaining that were having private security protect them.

    The CHAZ/CHOP? It had multiple shootings and 4 murders in its less-than-a-month lifespan. It wasn’t the murders that got the CHAZ/CHOP retaken. It was the fact that the protesters started protesting in the neighborhood of the Mayor.

    I imagine that “Black Lives Matter” will be used as a benediction to open meetings. Meetings in which it’s explained that funding for the police department will be increasing, but the lion’s share of the increase will be going to the training budget and SWAT.

    And, sadly, the “restoration of downtown” budget will be cut because of the decreased revenues that followed the stores that got burned down getting behind in paying their taxes.

    Maybe another symbolic victory will help. Here. We’ll get rid of the Christopher Columbus statue. He was very, very bad to Indigenous People.

    What do you mean you don’t care?

    You don’t sound very grateful.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater
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      says:

      We’re seeing change which goes beyond rebranding pancake mixes.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird
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        says:

        I’m not sure that we are.

        Lemme see the first cop fired for turning off his camera before an incident in which his story differs significantly from someone else’s.

        I’m not saying it *WON’T* happen.

        I’m just saying that we’ve been places where promises to do better have been made before and laws have been passed before and Black Lives have Mattered before and here we are again.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater
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          says:

          Cops have been fired for assaulting protestors. That’s new.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon
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            says:

            Will they be re-hired by the same department as soon as the public glances away, or forced back as soon as the Union engages the mediation clause, or hired on at the next PD over?Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter
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          says:

          Police unions are a force like gravity. They don’t get tired. They’re always there pushing for less accountability. They’re often electing their bosses.

          This currently feels like a sprint but in reality it’s an endless marathon.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels
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            says:

            Right its a marathon.

            And like all other large societal shifts, it takes a sustained effort over a period of years by millions of people who also don’t get tired or distracted.

            One of the things I learned back when I was an organizer is just how difficult that is, to keep people engaged and activated and focused.

            Which is why I see these things like brand changes or name changes as more than silly irrelevant theatrics.

            Returning to my war analogy, most battles are really just small skirmishes, setting up position of advantage for the larger fights to come.

            Something like “Lets rename the City park!” seems silly but it helps to keep the troops engaged and mobilized, helps keep the issue alive and in the headlines.

            It also helps to build a total framework in which the old status quo is destroyed one brick at a time.
            Because the status quo isn’t JUST qualified immunity, it isn’t JUST Confederate statues, it isn’t JUST a lack of mental health services, but all those things and many more. They can’t be overcome in a single battle, but have to be painstakingly disassembled and rebuilt piece by piece.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter
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              says:

              Do you lose or gain followers after you do a number of the small things?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Sometimes wars and political battles go spectacularly bad. Sometimes they turn out well.

                I don’t think there is any surefire script that guarantees success in either war or politics.Report

  7. Avatar InMD
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    says:

    There’s a narcissism to late capitalism, where people mistake catering to certain sensibilities to make money for substantive action. There’s also a lot of religion for people who don’t have Jesus in the mix.

    None of this is to say symbols don’t matter at all. I find it tough to mourn something like removal of the Confederate jack from the MS flag. There’s a real public interest in the apparent endorsement by the state of something associated with an actual political agenda. But paraphrasing Freddie from back in the day, no amount of privilege checking ever put food in anyone’s belly. Neither has any company putting up ‘Black Lives Matter’ on its webpage or making sure people can’t watch Gone With the Wind or whatever else.

    I’m no Marxist but I can’t help but think the abandonment of materialism by the cultural left has had some really negative consequences for our politics. At the very least it’s made it a lot harder for people to distinguish between what matters and what doesn’t.Report

  8. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    Excellent post, and yes, the symbolic crap bugs me, because it smacks of the shallow buzzword thinking of these issues.Report

  9. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    The thing all the easy symbolic stuff was done by companies. Changing laws is a completely separate thing that always takes more time and lifting. I’ve seen people lament how they didn’t want Gone with the Wind to be still in wide spread availability and subject to a silly moral panic. Ur how about brands changing logos….yeah we got that but it has nothing to do with the laws.

    It seems to me like a lot of protesters were saying what they wanted. One party tried to give them a some of what they wanted and one tried to give them very little. Pols heard what people wanted. I don’t think calling reps would have changed anything. We have an election coming up so people can still call. And vote.

    FWIW i’m glad all the confed statues are gone. It would have been better to do it formally but we have seen how difficult that has been. It would take decades to get them down and it is a travesty they were ever up in the first place.

    “Partisan politics” sigh. This really says nothing. I know it’s a common phrase, but it says nothing. Whose bill did you want? Which was better? Who was willing to negotiate? What will get done if the D’s or R’s win in November? Politics is inherently about groups putting stuff out there, sometimes negotiating, winning power then doing what they can. Politics always has different groups with different issues. If one side wins in Nov there is a lot more chance of significant change if the pressure continues to be applied. I hope that pressure stays and i think it will.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter
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      says:

      Does passing reform help [my side] get elected, or would [my team] be better off if this was still an election issue in November?

      I’d think Team Blue wants to look like they’re doing something but are obstructed by Team Red, and vise versa of course.

      ————————-

      And great post Dennis.Report

      • Avatar greginak
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        says:

        Is this supposed to mean something? The D’s pushed for more reform then the R’s. Nothing is changing at the Fed level right now. If the D’s win they are more likely to get reform while the R’s will spin another “repeal and replace” sack of nothing.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter
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          says:

          As far as I can tell, we have moves by both sides to do something. We have duelling bills in Congress right now.

          Just off hand, I’d guess it’s to the D’s advantage for them to not pass right now (to keep this issue alive during the election) and to the R’s advantage for them to pass right now (so it’s not alive during the election).

          That’s me being very cynical and I’d love to be surprised by a compromise bill that passes. However “to the advantage of one team for this to not be settled before the election” is probably the equiv of “isn’t settled before the election”.Report

  10. Avatar Philip H
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    says:

    While people were deciding if we can watch Gone with the Wind anymore or why we’ve been using racist pancake mix, the House and Senate were working on separate bills to deal with police brutality. The Senate bill failed to pass the Senate and while the House bill passed in the Democratic House, it won’t be taken up in the Republican Senate. Partisan politics have stopped any meaningful change from taking place. What could have happened had people put as much energy in destroying statues of abolitionists? What if people called their representatives in state capitals and Washington, demanding change to policing? If you want to tackle structural racism, you must work for actual systemic change. Qualified immunity, the fleecing of poor black and brown people with fines such as what took place in Ferguson, Missouri, banning chokehold, these are genuine changes that help dismantle structural racism. It’s far more important to me we stop the police from using chokeholds than it is to worry about the woman on a box of pancake mix.

    This is the essence of where we now are. And for that it is powerful.

    I will say, however, that many of us are working to these ends. We hopefully will see much of this in November at the ballot box. At the same time many of us who have worked on and screamed about these issues for years have spent a LOT of time – including here – being dismissed as virtue-signalling Social Justice warriors who don’t actually want to change the system.Report

  11. Avatar Stillwater
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    says:

    So, what is the big problem with removing a statue or two? Isn’t that a good thing?

    It can be a good thing, but most times it doesn’t make an actual difference in the lives of African Americans.

    Here’s the thing though. Any *single* act or proposal won’t be sufficient to “make an actual difference in the lives of African Americans”. And that’s the problem with micro-analysis of individual acts or proposals: each one can be dismissed is misguided, or counterproductive, or self-serving, or whatever because it doesn’t – because it cannot – achieve the desired goal. Only a collection of such actions, with sufficient cumulative weight, will get the job done.

    Regarding statues removals specifically, this much seems pretty obvious to me despite the very real possibility I’m wrong: insofar as black people want (to use Al Sharpton’s phrase) the knee of society taken off their collective necks, then white people are an essential part of the solution because they’re (we’re) an essential part of the cause. And removing statues celebrating racism and Jim Crow is not only a good first step, but – in my mind – a necessary part of the process of re-defining American culture, and by that I mean *white* American culture, so that it doesn’t include monuments honoring a morally repugnant institution.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko
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      says:

      This, I think, is the best rejoinder to the OP possible. And at the same time, it’s open to the same criticism: “Okay, so you want to restructure white culture, awesome! Are you going to do anything more meaningful in that respect than taking down some statues?” I sure hope we do, it’s within our abilities to do so, and it’s long overdue.Report

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