#BlackLivesMatter has to be one of the most powerful online movements since… well probably ever.
A simple hashtag set up four years ago in response to the murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin; it is now loaded with all the complexities of race relations (particularly between law enforcement and civilians) in America and by default, worldwide.
When a UK branch of the campaign group sprang up it was of no surprise. People from London in particular have marched frequently showing their support for the racial injustice suffered by people of colour State side.
However, a stunt which today saw nine Black Lives Matter UK protestors arrested for trespassing at London City Airport has me wondering what exactly the scope of campaigners using the #BLM banner should be.
Police were called to the airport in east London at 05.40 responding to reports of trespassers on a runway – some of them being chained together. The protestors sans melanin and surrounded by Black Lives Matter collateral created confusion with a banner which read: “Climate crisis is a racist crisis.”
This wasn’t to highlight racial, judicial, health or educational injustices — it was about the environment.
My initial reaction was to dismiss the stunt straight away. More than that, I wondered if UKBLM had been hijacked by environmental protestors (best case scenario) or All Lives Matter proponents (worst case scenario).
Credit to the guys over at UKBLM; they put forth a very eloquent and passionate case highlighting things that certainly never crossed my mind before. So what exactly is the problem? Am I saying that BLM should focus solely on police brutality and none of the other issues facing the wider black community?
There is something inherently wrong with a campaign that uses Caucasions as front men or as the group prefer to call it “white allyship under black leadership.” The black lives that apparently matter in this instance remain invisible. Are we saying that people would be totally turned off from the cause if they could put a face to the race? Or is it that we need white people to fight our battles?
The images broadcast in the media and via the UKBLM twitter feed were almost farcical and it’s little wonder that many people I spoke to had little desire to get to the bottom of the message that was being sold, which is where the danger lies.
We take for granted the need to preserve the integrity of the BLM brand. With mainstream media and right wing weirdos doing their darndest to find chinks in the armour of the movement, sensational statements like “climate crisis is racist” are just the kind of things that get leapt on and misconstrued as ridiculous by those wishing to maintain their privilege.
Wouldn’t it have been better for UKBLM to come out in support of a campaign by an environmental group and let them bare the reputational damage of the arrests and the annoyance of the commuters?
Perhaps UKBLM is more forward thinking and proactive than my mind can comprehend. Maybe it is better for us as a community to set our own agendas and fight for the plight of the many, not just the few. They probably were right to promote the fact we are affected by issues other than brutality and that there are things we should try to do about it.
However, I can’t see the benefit in creating campaigns that need to be over explained, especially if you are using “agency staff” to deliver the message.