On the center divide on Highway 55 in Minneapolis after grand jury decision to not indict Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson.
Photo: Juan Conatz
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’re aware of the protests and actions that have sprung up in the wake of the police murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. In Minneapolis, we’ve taken our marches onto the highways, blocked traffic, demanded to be met at city hall, and defied the Mall of America by gathering there for a rally.
Much like anywhere else though, along with a lot of support, there’s been a fair amount of negative reaction. In the comment sections of local media, in our workplaces, maybe even in our families, we’ve begun to notice a string of repeated objections.
Patrick O’Donohue, an IWW member and a participant in the local Black Lives Matter movement, responds to some of these objections.
Common objections to the Black Lives Matter movement
by Patrick O’Donohue
“People need to stop making things about race.”
Agreed. Racist institutions and people need to stop making things about race by treating people of color unfairly. Until they do, we should all point out their racism and criticize them for it.
“We need to come together, not be divided!”
Agreed. We should come together against racism.
“ALL lives matter!”
Agreed. So, when the police treat lives as if they don’t matter, we object. When the police target some ethnic groups, such as black people or Native Americans, for disproportionate abuse, we point out that racist targeting. When police continue to summarily execute black people and get away with it over and over, and treating black lives as if they do not matter, it is appropriate for us all to say, “Black lives matter!”- because all lives matter.
“Irish-Americans were persecuted, too”
Agreed. Many decades ago, but agreed. That’s why Irish-Americans should stand on the side of people who are currently going through discrimination similar to what our ancestors went through. Same goes for people whose ancestors were Italian, German, Jewish, Slavic, Spanish, or any other ethnicity that faced discrimination when they first came to America. Really, the same goes for all of us.
“All this race stuff just divides us against the real problems like class and government abuses of power”
Agreed. Racism has historically been used to keep exploited and governed populations from working together against their common interests. As such, racism is a supporting pillar maintaining the power of class and the state. Instead of allowing racism to fool us into supporting the institutions of the state and of class, we should unite with people of color against those institutions and against the racism that upholds them.
“White people get killed by the police, too!”
Agreed. We get killed at a much lower rate, and the media doesn’t demonize the white victims of police brutality to nearly the same degree that black victims of police brutality get demonized, but yes: white people get killed by the police, too– especially white queer, mentally ill, homeless, or working class people. These aspects of police discrimination should be discussed, just like the racial aspect should be- and, of course, every summary execution by the police should be condemned. The demands that the Black Lives Matter movement is making- demands like body cameras, independent investigations of police violence, community oversight of the police, and an end to ‘broken windows’ policing and the drug war- are demands that will help all victims of police brutality, regardless of our race.
“You’re inconveniencing people!”
Agreed. That’s the point of civil disobedience- we aim to make it impossible to continue ignoring the problem of police brutality and racism. We aim to make our movement a constant problem for those in power and for those who’ve ignored the problem, because we have seen that politely asking for the state to please stop summarily executing people doesn’t work. If you only support social change when it’s convenient, non-disruptive, and doesn’t interrupt business as usual, then you don’t support social change at all. Change is disruptive by definition.
“You protestors are breaking the law!”
Agreed. The law is breaking human beings and communities every day. The law targets working class people and people of color for mass incarceration through the racially targeted drug war, ‘broken windows’ policing that gives unforgiving punishment for minor ‘offenses’, and policies of minimum sentencing. The law operates as a back-door tax on the communities the police target, and as a way to funnel people into prisons to be used as cheap labor. The law covers for the police when the police murder unarmed people. We are absolutely breaking the law, and hope to break it so thoroughly it can no longer be used to target and oppress working class people and people of color.