Let’s make a prediction now: I think Friday’s #BLM interruption at the Sanders rally is just the beginning of a dialogue that’s ultimately going to split that movement in two.
And another: I think it will end up being a good thing for you, me, and the rest of the members of that movement.
Within #BLM there are two sides to the argument. The first is made up of Marissa Johnson, Mara Jacqueline Willaford, the other activists who wrestled away Bernie’s mic last week, as well as the social media warriors who stand in solidarity with them. Their message is loud, clear, and pretty reasonable: the dominant political discourse in our country excludes black voices, and so black voices need to force their way into white discourse by whatever means necessary. You can find a good synopsis of this perspective here.
On the other hand, we have the signers of this Change.org petition, as well as the die-hard Bernie supporters, who (in their more salient moments) will argue that the tactics employed at the recent Seattle rally are not representative of the movement as a whole, and not productive toward its goals. Which, to be honest, also seems pretty reasonable. Especially if we keep in mind that not all Sanders fans are white and not all #BLM supporters are black. The important debate is not, as so many pundits would have it, between white progressives and black activists, but within #BLM itself.
This begs the question, Who is #BLM? While recognizing the centrality of black leadership within the movement, we have to question where its fuzzy boundaries end. If asked, how many armchair progressives, black or white, would tell you that they support #BLM? How many of those do you think people like Marissa Johnson, or Roderick Morrow would say support it? Because of the nature of Twitter-based social activism, such decisions aren’t left up to anyone in particular.
Suddenly, we find ourselves thinking of hundred year-old poems about birds:
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.