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Following the horrific deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, people across the country have been using the phrase “Black Lives Matter” mostly as a gesture of solidarity with the black community. However, the phrase does not exist simply as a social media slogan, but indirectly references the actual organization known as “Black Lives Matter.”
What ideas does the group actually promote? In the opening paragraphs of the national group’s “What We Believe” page, the expressed mission is relatively straight-forward: working to expose and prevent police brutality, unjust deaths at the hands of vigilantes, and general racism endangering black lives.
The group also fully embraces its racial identity:
We are unapologetically Black in our positioning. In affirming that Black Lives Matter, we need not qualify our position. To love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others.
We see ourselves as part of the global Black family, and we are aware of the different ways we are impacted or privileged as Black people who exist in different parts of the world.
However, a little over half-way through the page, the organization then transitions from the subject of black lives, and begins discussing content regarding gender identity and family structures – subjects seemingly outside the original framework of Black Lives Matter:
We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.
We practice empathy. We engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.
We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).
Beyond that, Black Lives Matter has promoted some noteworthy anti-police rhetoric throughout the current national crisis beyond the rather bipartisan call for police training reform. On May 30, the group joined the hashtag #DefundThePolice and issued a list of demands.
“We call for an end to the systemic racism that allows this culture of corruption to go unchecked and our lives to be taken,” said the organization. “We call for a national defunding of police. We demand investment in our communities and the resources to ensure Black people not only survive, but thrive. If you’re with us, add your name to the petition right now and help us spread the word.”
— Kailee Scales (@KaileeScales) June 5, 2020
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