Which Black Lives Matter to Black Lives Matter?

            Founded in 2012 by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza, Black Lives Matter (BLM) is both a national organization and a movement designed to emphasize the value of black life, an organization that has better defined what state sanctioned violence is and how it particularly affects the black community through institutionalized racism, which has led to mass incarceration, sustained poverty, detrimental health outcomes, the objectification of black women during times of extreme violence and war, and many other ways that has established a sustained and intentional system of social-Darwinism.

            The organization developed when the man responsible for the murder of 17-year old boy Trayvon Martin was acquitted. According to the website, blacklivesmatter.com, “it centers [around] those that have been marginalized within the Black liberation movement… [as a] tactic to (re)build [that] movement”.  Those marginalized include blacks identifying as LGBTQ+, blacks with criminal records, blacks with disabilities, black women, and undocumented black immigrants. Thus, Black Lives Matter engages most members of the black community, including those that have been traditionally marginalized, to create a better and larger unification to end state sanctioned social Darwinism against blacks. There is a particular member of the community that continues to be marginalized within both black and white communities that BLM does not seem interested in engaging, which I will address later in the article.

            Due to massive efforts by the US government to segregate black communities from white communities, the movement has been met with criticism among some white communities, who are relatively isolated from the daily issues blacks face. Some view the movement as unnecessary, as they neither encounter the issues faced by many people of color, nor do they identify with people of color, which is all the more reason for a movement like this to exist. Alternatively, there are political and civic organizations within the white community that view BLM as vital and necessary in bringing awareness and change in how blacks have been treated, and are currently treated, in US society.

There are many different BLM chapters throughout the US, and they are engaged differently with various political organizations. For instance, on the national stage, the Democratic Party has officially denounced BLM, while the Nashville, TN branch of BLM appears to have actively worked with the Nashville Democratic Party. Following the August 2017 Nazi riots in Charlottesville Virginia, which lead to the murder of a Democratic Socialist of America (DSA) and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) counter-protestor, Heather Heyer, and two additional deaths of police officers from a helicopter crash, as a cofounder of The Independent Progressive (TIP), a progressive political activist group in Nashville, I organized an emergency vigil in solidarity with Charlottesville. It was well received and approximately 50 to 100 people participated in the vigil.

BLM Nashville participated in the vigil and a representative spoke, voicing both anger and action on what to do next, which was well received. After the vigil, an impromptu protest was conducted by BLM Nashville at a nearby location from where the vigil was held. While TIP remained at the event to help clean and did not attend, several members of Middle TN DSA did attend. Middle TN DSA did reach out to us to try to create a way in which community political and civic organizations with progressive ideologies could better communicate and organize with each other about events and protests. BLM was one group in which the DSA was looking at with to engage, so I, as both a TIP co-founder and DSA member, reached out to BLM Nashville:

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“Hello,

I'm one of the founders of The Independent Progressive (TIP) and we held a vigil in solidarity with Charlottesville last night. A memberfrom your organization joined us and I would like to stay engaged with you concerning community activities, ect...  Also, we heard about tomorrow's monument protest and would like to be involved. DSA is also interested in creating a group of community organizers, so that we can better coordinate and organize across all of the groups fighting for change and equality. Let me know if you'd like to be involved and please feel free to share with me any upcoming events. My org is on twitter: @TI_Progressive and Facebook at Facebook.com\tiprogressive.

I look forward to working with you and I appreciate your member speaking last night at the vigil.

Sincerely,

-Amanda”

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Prior to receiving a response from BLM Nashville, it was reported on a local Fox News affiliate that arrests were made at the vigil. We reached out to the affiliate to alert them that this was in fact not true. We subsequently discovered that indeed arrests had taken place, but it was in relation to the BLM protest. As such, TIP was interviewed concerning the vigil, and some questions arose concerning the protest, but because we were not at the protest, we refused to speak about the specifics surrounding the protest. Here was my message:

“Vigils need to occur, and protests need to happen, but they do need to be seen as isolated events, due to messaging. You can’t leave too much room surrounding the purpose of a vigil and/ or a protest. However, protesting is the most American thing one can do; the country was essentially founded on a massive protest”.

Some portions of this made it into the interview. Generally speaking, TIP, as an organization, approves of protesting and we plan on organizing protests in the future. Importantly, an effective protest involves organization, planning, and a well-defined message.

The next day, I received a response from BLM Nashville’s spokesperson Evan Bunch:

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"Amanda Cummings,

It is with great disdain (mind you this is a respectable word)  I am writing to you.  TIP proudly professes to be progressive on your Facebook page but yet last night your organization decried people going to protest after the vigil.  On Fox 17 interview your spokesperson talked about how your vigil was an isolated event and the protest shouldn't have happened.  Let me tell yo white ass something.  This work is not a fuckin day camp or a progressive orgy party, this work involves putting your body on the damn line and you being white, yo ass should have been arrested instead of me.  Now you wanna come in this private email and say your looking to work with us but yet yo ass wanna say some dumb shit like folks shouldn't have went to protest, GTFOH.  The last thing yo white ass needs to be doing is a damn vigil, ya'll need to start telling your white kin folks to write some damn checks with a lot of damn zeros.  I'm talking about so many zeros that would make a honeycomb look like it got three holes in it, you feel me? Reach out to SURJ so yo white ass can learn how to come correct.”

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To summarize, the spokesperson for Nashville BLM stated I had no right, as a white person, to condemn protests. That I should better educate myself in regards to the plights of black Americans. However, as a bi-racial black woman, who never spoke against protesting, but in fact stated the exact opposite, I found BLM Nashville’s response both alarming and destructive to the overall purpose of BLM. If it is to be believed that BLM’s goal is to involve the marginalized in a movement bringing awareness and change to social Darwinism against black Americans, a routinely marginalized person within and outside of the black community are bi-racial and multi-racial blacks. As, according to some, including Nashville’s BLM chapter, bi-racial blacks are too white, a sentiment that was echoed in a subsequent email sent by BLM Nashville’s spokesperson:

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“Amanda,

Watch the interview.  And this: "DSA is also interested in creating a group of community organizers, so that we can better coordinate and organize across all of the groups fighting for change and equality" is already done.  Ya'll just need to get to know organizers in the city before you attempt to shut them down like you did in that interview.  Thank you for bringing up the biracial perspective, I see you chose the white folks - good luck. “ 

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However, bi-racial blacks can be considered too black in specific sections of the white community, thus leaving bi-racial and multi-racial blacks routinely neglected and out of place, inhabiting a space between both racial groups and lacking a clear identity among both groups.

BLM, in order to survive, and to be taken seriously, particularly in the South, cannot continue to marginalize members of the black community and allies from other communities. Additionally, they must be willing to work with others despite disagreements, as not all groups are going to agree on 100% of what a group believes or plans on doing to meet a goal. While I agree with much of what BLM stands for, I cannot accept this kind of hostility towards whites and bi-racial blacks as I personally experienced. I understand why there is anger at times, but it is immensely destructive when it is both misdirected and used ineffectively. BLM Nashville protested, for the sake of protesting (albeit a good cause) and I will not align with a protest, although well-intentioned, that lacks a message, because I want to be heard and taken seriously from observers and participants alike.

My conclusion concerning BLM is controversial, especially as a Democratic Socialist who is also a bi-racial black woman, but nonetheless I cannot abide by their use of exclusionism and out right racism. First, BLM is neither a terrorist organization/ group nor is a hate group. However, I believe that BLM will not meet the goals of the black community if they continue along the lines of exclusivity and racism. Frankly, racism of any kind has no place within groups demanding social justice and equality. Additionally, BLM will isolate themselves from allies that are willing to aid in, and fight for, their cause if they continue to show open hostility towards groups that want to work with them. While a movement and organization is desperately needed for black Americans, BLM cannot be that group when they accept practices of racism and excluding b-racial and multi-racial blacks, which at the time of writing this piece, appears to be a sanctioned practice by BLM national.

We wrote to BLM National about our correspondences with the Nashville branch, but have not yet received a response. For complete transparency, we’ve included the entire correspondence between TIP’s Amanda Cumming and BLM Nashville’s spokesperson, Evan Bunch.

Edit: An earlier version of this story stated that Middle TN DSA did not attend since some of the members had remained behind to help. However, several members did attend the protest.

Additional Note: We do not intend for this article to imply that Amanda Cumming speaks for the local chapter of any organization other than The Independent Progressive.

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The Below are copies of the emails, though we retain the actual images of the emails separately

Emails:                                                                                                                                              

AC (TIP):

Hello,

I'm one of the founders of The Independent Progressive (TIP) and we held a vigil in solidarity with Charlottesville last night. A memberfrom your organization joined us and I would like to stay engaged with you concerning community activities, ect...  Also, we heard about tomorrow's monument protest and would like to be involved. DSA is also interested in creating a group of community organizers, so that we can better coordinate and organize across all of the groups fighting for change and equality. Let me know if you'd like to be involved and please feel free to share with me any upcoming events. My org is on twitter: @TI_Progressive and Facebook at Facebook.com\tiprogressive.

I look forward to working with you and I appreciate your member speaking last night at the vigil.

Sincerely,

-Amanda

EB (BLM-Nashville):

Amanda Cummings,

It is with great disdain (mind you this is a respectable word)  I am writing to you.  TIP proudly professes to be progressive on your Facebook page but yet last night your organization decried people going to protest after the vigil.  On Fox 17 interview your spokesperson talked about how your vigil was an isolated event and the protest shouldn't have happened.  Let me tell yo white ass something.  This work is not a fuckin day camp or a progressive orgy party, this work involves putting your body on the damn line and you being white, yo ass should have been arrested instead of me.  Now you wanna come in this private email and say your looking to work with us but yet yo ass wanna say some dumb shit like folks shouldn't have went to protest, GTFOH.  The last thing yo white ass needs to be doing is a damn vigil, ya'll need to start telling your white kin folks to write some damn checks with a lot of damn zeros.  I'm talking about so many zeros that would make a honeycomb look like it got three holes in it, you feel me? Reach out to SURJ so yo white ass can learn how to come correct. 

 

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AC:

Hi Evan,

Thanks for getting back with me. First, I haven't watched the interview, and I don't plan to, but Earlier we spoke back and forth with foxnews about how we don't feel it was represented accurately. Remember, it's Fox News. I don't have much trust of the media to begin with, but Fox News benefits when everyone on the left fights each other.

I mentioned in the interview how protesting is the most American thing we can do and that I would like to (help) organize a visible (& hopefully large-scale) protest. 

We didn't say anyone shouldn't have protested. What we intended was for a vigil to occur, the article I read mentioned people were arrested at a vigil. We said this is false. They asked me about the protest and I told them I couldn't speak on that since I only attended the vigil and spoke to others, as well as cleaned up, after it finished. 

I further said that if people want to participate in a vigil, than do so, if you want to participate in a protest, do so. I in no way said it was unacceptable to protest, and the fact that I explicitly said that I approve of protesting, makes me a very angry that it appeared as if I was saying otherwise. Again, I told them that the vigil was held, of which should be isolated from a protest solely due to the messaging, but protesting is vital and the most American thing anyone can do, especially since there is no other recourse for the gov to take notice. 

Having said that, I'm not white. I'm biracial and have spent my entire life being in between whites and blacks and being told implicitly and explicitly that I wasn't welcome in either racial group. Obviously it's been a great challenge for me, and I've wanted nothing more but to be accepted by both. 

If I knew rich white people I would tell them to use that to good use; sadly I dont. I'm doing the best I can with very little resources and support. I recognize your anger, but I don't know how best to help or if anything I mentioned to you will give you some context so that you know I 100% did not disapprove of protesting. 

I know the DSA is still interested in establishing a group of community leaders and organizers to better coordinate events, protests, etc. If BLM is interested please let them know. 

Sincerely,

-Amanda

 

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EB:

Amanda,

Watch the interview.  And this: "DSA is also interested in creating a group of community organizers, so that we can better coordinate and organize across all of the groups fighting for change and equality" is already done.  Ya'll just need to get to know organizers in the city before you attempt to shut them down like you did in that interview.  Thank you for bringing up the biracial perspective, I see you chose the white folks - good luck.

Amanda Cumming