Black Lives Matter is one of the most influential global social justice movements of our generation, but it’s also one that is misunderstood. So, to help distinguish fact from fiction, let’s debunk the most common myths about BLM, give you our brief history and clearly lay out our values and mission.
Class is in session!
Why and when did BLM start?
Black Lives Matter is a direct response to anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression that we all experience.
We emerged in 2013 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for the death of the unarmed 17-year-old in Sanford, Florida. Our presence also grew after the 2014 death of Mike Brown, the 18-year old from Ferguson, Missouri, who was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a local police officer, who like Zimmerman, was not held accountable for Brown’s murder.
Over the years, we have evolved into a globally recognized organizing project with 40 chapters in North America and the United Kingdom. We’ve also helped change the way that we talk about racism, police brutality, class and gender and LGBTQ inequality.
This is just the beginning. Looking at the current news headlines, it’s clear that there’s a lot more work to do.
Want to learn more about BLM’S herstory? Go here.
So wait, you turned a hashtag into a movement?
Well . . . hashtags don’t create movements. People do.
Thankfully over the years, we’ve been blessed with the incredible help of advocates, artists, designers and techies that have offered their love and assistance to help us transform #BlackLivesMatter from a Twitter hashtag into an organizing network.
However, we are fully aware that we didn’t invent the act of fighting for our freedom. That has always been part of Black folks’ history and Black Lives Matter is simply an extension of that rich legacy. We also recognize that this work isn’t just about Black Lives Matter. While we started this instrumental network, we are a part of a much larger movement that involves so many other powerful organizations across the country and the world.
The fight is bigger than us—and it always has been.
But I thought BLM was about stopping the murders of Black men. Why do you talk about other issues?
No doubt, the tragic deaths of young Black men such as Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown helped inspire this movement. But if we all want to be free, we can’t just focus on how police brutality affects Black men and boys.
For starters, Sandra Bland, Renisha McBride, Islan Nettles, Mya Hall, Penny Proud, Rekia Boyd, Miriam Carey and countless others are reminders that Black women and girls are not only impacted by police violence, but gender violence as well. And BLM refuses to erase cisgender and transgender women from this crucial conversation.
We will always #SayHerName.
Second, given that the network was started by two queer identified women, it’s also important that we fight for Black LGBTQ lives because 1) last time we checked, Black LGBTQ folks are Black too and 2) we are vulnerable—if not more so—to the oppression that we are fighting against.
It’s our duty to address homophobia and transphobia within our own community and beyond. That’s what Black Lives Matter is about: Making room for ALL of us, not just some of us.
Finally, BLM recognizes that police brutality isn’t the only issue that endangers our lives and creates inequality. This is why we advocate for a range of solutions including reparations, universal health care, electing more progressive Black politicians, decriminalizing drug offenses, increased tax incentives and loans for Black businesses and a guaranteed minimum livable income for all Black people.
This is what true freedom looks like for us.
Read more about BLM’s policy demands here.
Is DeRay Mckesson the leader or co-founder of BLM?
Nope. While Mckesson is often mistakenly identified as one of the leaders of BLM or a co-founder, that is false. He may be dedicated to the cause with his own work and organization, but the co-founders of BLM are and have always been Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.
Does BLM hate the police?
BLM hates the ways that state violence tears our communities apart. This is bigger than individuals or professions. We demand that law enforcement stop killing us, terrorizing us and separating our families and our communities.
We also demand that we find new ways of keeping our communities safe—you can’t end violence with more violence. That is, and has always been, a failed strategy for change.
In the end, we want a world in which Black lives are valued, respected and safe. That includes the role that police play in our communities, but it isn’t limited to it.
Does BLM hate white people?
Despite what conservatives say, we are not a hate group, nor do we hate white people. We are unapologetically fighting white supremacy and we welcome white allies who are dedicated to eradicating anti-Black racism.
Most important, centering Black lives is not an act of violence or hatred against whites. This is about acknowledging that the system already treats white lives as far more valuable and more worthy of protection, safety and a higher quality of life than we are.
Don’t all lives matter? Why just Black ones?
Of course white and non-Black lives matter, but like we said above, given this country’s history, policies and criminal justice system, it’s obvious that Black, Latino and indigenous lives are the ones that are constantly undervalued, underserved and viewed as less important.
This has got to change.
Hopefully now you have a better grasp on what Black Lives Matter is and what we actually stand for.
Have more questions? Learn more about our work at blacklivesmatter.com.