Black Lives Matter: Does opposing the movement really render one a racist?
Tom Clements, one of two counter-protestors at Saturday's Black Lives Matter demonstration in Bishop's Stortford, writes about why he opposes the Black Lives Matter movement...
In the early 1990s, renowned leftist academic Noam Chomsky stated on public radio that in order to create good propaganda you first come up with a slogan that nobody could possibly be against. In this case he was referring to "Support the Troops", a refrain that separated American society into those who were either for their country or those who were opposed to it.
Even questioning the ulterior motives behind the slogan could lead a person to being denounced as belonging to the latter category and their motives dismissed, almost without question, as nefarious and unpatriotic.
Upon attending the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Bishop's Stortford on Saturday as one of only two counter-protesters, I noticed that such pronouncements made nearly 30 years ago – incidentally, by the most quoted intellectual in the Western world – still have a certain salience today, albeit in a different political context.
Indeed, no human being of a kind and tolerant disposition could disagree with the slogan "Black Lives Matter".
I believe first and foremost in the sanctity and equality of all human life regardless of racial background. In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that the vast majority of Britons hold firm to the same view that all human life has equal value, which is testament to our core liberal principles as a nation.
No doubt the majority of the 150 protesters who turned out at Sworder's Field were motivated by a sincere desire to see what they perceive as racial injustices disproportionately affecting black people globally. But is this truly what the Black Lives Matter movement is about? And does opposing this movement really render one a racist?
Upon reading the set of demands Black Lives Matter makes on its website, I was shocked to learn of its desire to dismantle the global capitalism, a system it claims is nested in white supremacy, to defund the police in its entirety due to its culture of "systemic racism" and to disrupt the traditional Western-centric family structure, which it sees as inherently patriarchal.
Those holding placards and taking the knee the crowd on Saturday, many of whom were exceptionally polite towards me, a contrarian interloper, could be forgiven for not realising the radicalism and revolutionary fervour belying the ostensibly virtuous BLM banner. The mainstream media has not hitherto informed the general public as to what the ultimate aims of this organisation are.
Since the movement's inception, BLM activists have made no secret of their true motives. Opal Tometi, one of the group's three founders, confessed to The New Yorker that “police brutality and extrajudicial killing” was just “a spark point” to begin “calling for the defunding of police”.
I, like the vast majority of people, was appalled by the indefensible killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer with, it turns out, a long history of complaints over brutal conduct. The image of an unarmed man being asphyxiated was utterly horrifying and rightly elicited a tsunami of outrage across the world. But setting aside feelings for a second, what do the facts tell us about police malfeasance in America?
For one thing, it does not disproportionately affect the black community despite the widespread public perception that it does. BLM's claim of racial disparity in police homicide is simply not one based in reality. A study conducted after Ferguson by Harvard academics found "no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account".
Whilst black Americans citizens are certainly disproportionately affected by violence, overwhelmingly from members of their own community, there is no data to prove they are greatest victims of interracial violence. The data categorically proves the opposite is in fact true.
Last year, 39 unarmed whites were killed by American police as opposed to nine blacks. While whites are in a demographic majority, they are less likely as a group to be involved in violent criminality, namely homicides, the likes of which results in contact with armed police officers.
The evidence that the disproportionate number of black killings is purely due to racism is therefore decidedly lacking and is indeed completely glossed over in BLM's one-sided discourse. Moreover, BLM’s deafening silence on the 18 deaths which occurred over a single weekend in Chicago amid protests which devolved precipitously into anarchistic rioting suggests that, to this dubious organisation, some black lives do not matter, particularly if they do not suit a political agenda.
My feeling is that the movement has the potential to set back race relations in the UK and elsewhere by several decades through its divisive rhetoric.
A society like the UK's, in which the major fissures run along the lines of class and not race, must unite under the more inclusive banner of "All Lives Matter" or risk descending into tribalism, the likes of which threaten the very fabric of our liberal society which, for the most part, prides itself on colour-blindness.
While the grievances of white working-class men, statistically the most disadvantaged group in society, are glossed over, many will be tempted by the blandishments of the far-right groups, for which BLM are acting as unwitting recruiting sergeants.