Home Actions #WhiteNonsense: Is Black Lives Matter Racist?

Note: With 38K views and 10K shares and growing, “Sensible Responses to White Nonsense” hit a nerve. There is clearly a need by white people to challenge their peers on racist opinions that are (quite frankly) ridiculous. “Sensible Responses” is a smorgasbord of nonsense and responses. Yet each individual piece of nonsense also deserves its own spotlight and clear talking points, beginning with this post.  My hope is to nourish a groundswell of white people fighting white nonsense. This is our fight. This is our power.

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White Nonsense:

 

Black Lives Matter is racist because they are “only concerning themselves with black victims of police violence”*

Your Response:

Short Answer:

 

  • No, they are not racist.
  • To support one group is not inherently oppositional to other groups.
  • When you show support for one group, it is because that group is suffering some particular injustice that requires attention and remedy.
  • It is not because you oppose people who are not in that group.

Long Answer:

1) Racism has a variety of definitions.

There are a variety of ways of defining the word racism.  Some argue that “racism equals power.” According to this interpretation, black and other people of color can be biased or prejudiced, but they can’t be racist.  This is because, according to this interpretation, Racism = Bias based on skin color + Control over institutions that can do harm as a result of those biases.  So a black person can be biased, but they cannot be racist because they lack control over institutions to do harm to white people as a result of that bias.

However… this is not the most common definition.  The prevailing definition focuses exclusively on bias or individual treatment as a result of bias.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, for example, defines racism as both “poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race,” which anyone could do, and “the belief that some races of people are better than others,” which could also apply to a person of any skin color.

2) Fortunately, you can respond without choosing one.

Fortunately for logical argument, it is not necessary to resolve this definitional question to respond to the above criticism of Black Lives Matter.

3) To show support for one group is not inherently oppositional to other groups.

As to the question of whether Black Lives Matter holds some form of racial bias because they care about black lives, I give a firm “no.”  When you show support for one group, it is because that group is suffering some particular injustice that requires attention and remedy.  It is not because you oppose people who are not in that group.

For example, if I am fighting for access to HIV treatment I am not inherently expressing bias towards people who are HIV-negative. If I am fighting for housing for homeless youth I am not inherently biased against adults with homes.  If I am fighting for animal welfare I am not inherently anti-human.  I am just expressing that these groups are experiencing a particular injustice that requires attention and remedy.  I am lifting them up because I support them, not because I oppose others.

4) This is true even if some black activists have (understandable) anti-white bias.

Even if some black activists do hold bias against white people (which, to be honest, I find quite understandable), fighting for the rights and welfare of black people is not in and of itself racist.  They are uplifting the cause of black people because black people are subject to a range of injustices within our society.

5) Being passionate about one particular cause isn’t bias, it’s what drives activism.

The causes we care about are tied to our experiences, our identities, and who we love.  Each of us must fight for the causes that move our hearts.  This isn’t bias.  This is the engine of activism, human rights, and human progress.

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* Denotes direct quote from a white person

original image: michaelhyatt.com

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