Thursday, August 13, 2015

Stop oversimplifying

There was an incident recently in the US where a presidential hopeful called Bernie Sanders was set to deliver a big speech to a crowd of many thousands and was boldly interrupted.  Two women and one man claiming to represent Black Lives Matter (BLM) barged in, demanded the mic, got it, and then proceeded to keep it for some time, preventing the scheduled speech.  They got the crowd very riled up by calling them all a bunch of white supremacists when the crowd booed them for refusing to give up the mic.

I read a bunch of different takes on the situation, and I think the takeaway lesson is that this is a really thorny issue and anyone claiming to have a simple, clear summary is deluding themselves.  First off, the agenda of BLM is important and these three people certainly achieved their goal of getting a bunch of attention for it, which strikes me as a good thing.  Racism in general and in particular the interaction of the criminal justice system and black people is an absolute disaster, especially in the US, and that needs addressing.

On the other hand Bernie was going to talk about a lot of issues that are important to a lot of people and we can't just issue carte blanche for anyone to take over any event at any time if they feel their cause is more important.  However, there are a lot of people talking about how they won't support BLM now because of these disruptive, rude tactics and I think that is a mistake.  The organization is not officially represented by these individuals and their mandate of changing the racist culture in America is laudable even if you disagree with individual actions.

Thing is, if you are big on Bernie Sanders for president then he got a bunch of publicity so you shouldn't be too disappointed.  He also accepted the nudge to start talking about race and make that a bigger part of his platform, which seems like it has to be a good thing too.  Even better if it actually lead to real change, but who knows how likely that is.  At any rate the conversation being more up front is positive.

If all the political rallies and speeches were disrupted and BLM was actually providing a serious blockade to communication from presidential hopefuls that would be a big issue, but clearly that isn't happening.  They are making noise, getting attention, and pissing some people off in the process.  Those many thousands who wanted to hear Bernie were bitter, understandably, but you don't effect big change without some people having to hear things they don't like.

The interruption was rude, and clearly cannot become the norm.  No real harm was done though, and probably some real good came out of it.  It is a big tangled mess of things, good and bad, and we need to acknowledge that.

1 comment:

  1. The conflict between Black Lives Matters and Bernie Sanders supporters seems pretty complex, and has to do with grassroots organizations feels unsupported by one another. I think protesters should disrupt things and make themselves heard, I think that a lot of people are angry that these protesters were disrupting the Sanders and that Black Lives Matter seems to have taken a hands-off approach to Hilary Clinton (and there are some accusations of corruption there that I've seen - i.e., wealthy donors to Black Lives Matterr supporting Clinton; I have no idea of the truth behind that).

    Anyway, Sanders himself has taken the incident very well and added an explicit Racial Justice plank to his platform that includes things like eliminated for-profit prisons, preventing discrimination based on criminal records in hiring practices, and restoring provisions to the Voting Rights Act, and that platform has earned praise from official Black Lives Matter spokespeople (it's important to remember that anyone can be Black Lives Matter in the same way anyone can be Anonymous, but with Black Lives Matter there is an official web page and facebook group and such). People who had waited hours in awful heat to hear Sanders were angry about the disruption, but ultimately it sounds like it is just reinforcing that Sanders is the only mainstream candidate with any credibility on racial justice anyway.

    By the way, the reason people are so excited about Sanders is that (in addition to being a credible progressive who marched with Martin Luther King, called for equality for homosexuals in the 1970s and voted against the Iraq war) is that he is running without corporate funding and polling in the lead. If he can win (and it really looks like he can) then the corporate stanglehold on the American government is broken.