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BLM – Radical Politics or Grassroots Justice

Dear Editor: 

It was very much in keeping with his big picture approach that Ilyassha Shivers called for dialogue in last week’s column. However, after reading the Black Lives Matter “platform,” it seems to me the only dialogue possible is within the black community. 

The BLM platform is a bizarre combination of black separatist ideas circa 1970, extreme socialist tactics, and punitive measures against nonblacks with several practical ideas buried in the details. The tone of the document does not suggest “love”; it is soaked in vilification and division. Thus, its content undermines the chances of forming a broad coalition for change. It also undercuts the effort of grassroots BLM members who are already engaged in trying to fix the system. 

Is this truly the perspective of most black Americans? Is this the best way to engage the 86 percent of Americans who aren’t black? In my opinion, the great majority of Americans in the political middle –regardless of skin color– will turn away from such divisive rhetoric. 

Ilyassha says we should be brutally honest. I agree. That should include being brutally honest about all of the factors that led to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the exoneration of George Zimmerman in Florida. These were huge moments for our country. If we don’t get to the root causes, then nothing can be learned and nothing will be changed for the better. 

Unfortunately, some people who lead the BLM movement appear uninterested in the brutal honesty that Ilyassha is calling for. They are interested in power. It happens with grassroots movements. Success breeds ambition. Leaders grab for the brass ring and leave both original principles and the people at the grassroots behind. 

What’s also left behind is any chance to solve our most pressing problems. How do we drastically reduce gun violence? How do we prevent police actions from escalating to deadly encounters? How do we create pathways that break the cycle of incarceration for low level, non-violent offenders? How do we assure poor people and black citizens have the same opportunity for life, liberty and happiness as any other American? 

These are huge challenges we can only solve as a whole nation. In my opinion, the approach outlined in BLM’s platform only deepens the divide. But I would not presume to tell black Americans what to think. I hope their own dialogue yields a better path forward; a path on which all Americans are welcome.