Global Independent Analytics
Margaret Kimberley
Margaret Kimberley

Location: USA

Specialization: Civil rights, Racism, US politics

Hashtags Won’t Stop Police Murder

Americans may think of themselves as living in a human rights paradise, but facts prove that this belief is pure fantasy.

According to the Guardian series The Counted, there were 1,134 people killed by police in the United States in 2015. That is an average of three every day. Three hundred of those persons were black, one victim approximately every 28 hours. Other “developed,” “first world” nations have few if any police killings at all. Australia had 94 between 1992 and 2011. Germany had just 15 police killings in 2010 and 2011. Iceland has had only 1 in 70 years.

The numbers are so awful in this country because the law enforcement and penal systems are meant to keep black people under physical control. Some 577 white people were also among the victims but they were collateral damage sacrificed in order to keep the modern day slave patrol up and running.

The outrage spawned by the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer in 2013 galvanized a group of activists to form Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter has become the go-to group not only on the issue of police murder but on any subject that attracts progressives. Leftists don’t hold a meeting, rally or conference without someone asking, “Will Black Lives Matter be there?”

The name is so ubiquitous that even the group whose violence brought it into being have jumped on the band wagon. The words “police lives matter” are surely a perversion but if nothing else show the degree to which Black Lives Matter has been such a public relations success. Despite having pushed themselves to the forefront of media and public attention, we must ask what the group has accomplished. It isn’t just that police killings continue unabated but that the political response remains the same, utterly useless.

Black Lives Matter itself has made no political demands. Their conference held  in Cleveland, Ohio was replete with talk of healing and feelings but provided no road map for mass action. Without that there is no reason to believe that black Americans will be any safer from summary extra judicial execution.

It is said that the court system is so biased in favor of prosecutors that they can “indict a ham sandwich.” They obviously aren’t interested in indicting police because the killers of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice are all walking around free. In the absence of political demands and action that sad parade of injustice will continue.

Black Lives Matter has demanded nothing of the president of the United States or the department of justice which he controls. Police killings may result in investigations but they never lead to prosecutions that the attorney general has a right to carry out.

It wasn’t Black Lives Matter which put the city of Ferguson, Missouri on the map. It was ordinary people who didn’t wait for an approved group to show up and tell them what to do. They took to the streets and so did the people of Baltimore, Maryland after Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of police.

While anonymous people who are angry and outraged do the work of activism, well placed people from approved organizations get the lion’s share of attention despite having little to show for their work. If activists don’t provoke constant and deliberate agitation they are unworthy of the name. It is only political crises brought about by mass action that have ever brought a modicum of justice to black people in the United States.

The agitation cannot be directed at only the president or white prosecutors. It must be directed at black politicians who so far have been able to only mutter platitudes instead of outrage. Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson should have led the marchers who protested outside of prosecutor Timothy McGinty’s home. If Black Lives Matter were worthy of the attention they receive they would have protested Jackson too and forced him to speak up for his angry constituents. Discredited black leadership are  part of the problem and must be confronted on the issue of police violence and all other manifestations of racism.

It has been nearly forty years since there has been any sustained movement building in the United States. Young people have quite literally never seen it. They can create it for themselves but they must know what they ought to be doing. They also must know who is real and who is putting up a front.

The police state won’t change without very radical action and we have seen none of that from Black Lives Matter. While other groups fight for community control of the police and United Nations condemnation of America’s abysmal human rights record, BLM coasts along on its undeserved reputation. They say they won’t endorse candidates for office and that is just as well. Their meeting with Hillary Clinton was an embarrassment as she instructed them on how to make demands of politicians.

A mass movement doesn’t just take to the streets. It takes to the streets with a clear agenda and purpose. A movement uplifts friends and targets enemies and does those things by publicly stating who is on which side. We have to return to the 1960s and 1970s to find a time of fearless, in your face political action. Sadly, there is no one today who evokes that era. Black Lives Matter is no exception.

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