On Feb. 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing the 17-year-old and from the long and arduous trial sprang what is now called the Black Lives Matter movement, or BLM for short. BLM was founded by three African American women: Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza. It protests police brutality and racism. As quoted from the movements website, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” The Black Lives Matter movement has staged protests against police involved killings of black people. Many cities and towns experienced BLM protests, and the vast majority of these protests were peaceful. Unfortunately, some of the BLM protests turned violent, and in cities like Ferguson, Milwaukee and Charlotte, there has been widespread destruction among the communities.
In cities like Ferguson, Milwaukee and Charlotte where protests turned into riots, an interesting disconnect is seen among the BLM movement. The protesters and rioters cause destruction to the communities they are protesting from, which in turn, necessitates the very thing they are protesting (police) to be called in to protect the communities they live in. The cognitive dissonance seen among the BLM movement diminishes its inherent legitimacy, something that could not come at a worse time for the BLM movement.
The idealogical rift that is evident in the BLM movement is intensified by the lack of widespread protests against black-on-black violence. According to the Chicago-based website, a compiler of Chicago murder statistics showed that 570 people were killed in Chicago this year and 3,300 were shot. BLM address this on their website under the “11 Major Misconceptions About the Black Lives Matter Movement” page. They state that black-on-black crime is a major concern among the black community, but argue that it is predominately a “diversionary tactic” used to weaken the legitimacy of protestors of police brutality. Not more than two and a half hours away from Hope College is the Chicago neighborhood of West Austin. This neighborhood of about 18,000 people is ranked number one on the Chicago Tribune’s list of most dangerous neighborhoods, with 3.9 violent crimes per 1,000 people. While the BLM movement has addressed the concerns of interracial violence in Chicago on its website, many pundits question whether or not their intentions are true.
The Black Live Matter movement has brought police brutality to the center stage of the social and political discussion. Many social and political pundits have argued that being a young African-American male makes you a target in many areas of the country. In an interview by the Washington Times, Peter Moskos, an assistant professor at The City University of New York, told the Times that “[t]he odds that a black man will be shot and killed by a police officer is about 1 in 60,000. For a white man those odds are 1 in 200,000.” This disconnect could be attributed to a number of factors, but there is not a single definite cause.
Rioting in already destitute and hurt communities does not solve any of the problems that the Black Live Matter movement stands against. Protesting the killings by police, regardless of the circumstances, diminishes the effectiveness of future protests if the police are determined to be in the right. BLM can be a force for good, but will be continued to be viewed as a leaderless and agenda-less movement if they continue to allow their name to be used and invoked when peaceful protests turn into rambunctious riots.