In 2015, when I was working in tech, and we were brainstorming on cultural flashpoints that we could use in content, I wrote “Black Lives Matter” on a post-it note and stuck it on the whiteboard.
“Black Lives Matter, is that a joke?” my manager said. My face burned and I said nothing. As the only black person on the team, I felt I had to at least acknowledge the movement, even if I disagreed with the tactics. But it was clear even mentioning it in the workplace was not accepted.
I wasn’t a fan of the BLM movement when it began in Missouri in 2014 after Mike Brown’s death. I’ve generally been a law and order person. I’ve never had an issue with police. My grandfather was a prison guard at the infamous Sing Sing State Prison in New York. Before that, he worked for an elite narcotics unit that Nelson Rockerfeller assembled in the 1970s. I knew police brutality existed, but I believed in the “bad apples” propaganda. The police officers, I interacted with were decent human beings. Most of them looked like me.
I wrote a series of articles critical of BLM during my time as an editor at The National Interest. Back then I believed very strongly that activism wasn’t a viable path to change for African-Americans; I felt that the state getting out of the way and not blindly voting Democrat would allow Black America to chart its own future. TNI exploited those beliefs. The anti-BLM pieces I wrote went viral and I drove views and clicks to the site.
But then I was asked to write pieces about BLM based on false information, and I pushed back. I wanted to write other pieces that were about anything other than BLM, and got nowhere. I saw emails from the president of TNI that referred to Black protesters as violent, out-of-control thugs that needed to be reined in by the police. It became pretty clear I was supposed to be a Black woman who attacked and de-legitimized Black rage. When I see Candace Owens spew her vicious lies and propaganda, I can’t help but think she’s a Marjorie 3.0.
I deeply regret that I allowed myself to be so used by the conservative media to try to undermine Black anger about police brutality. But I’m glad their efforts failed. The George Floyd protests have ushered in a new civil rights movement, and I’m glad it’s here. Justice for Black Americans has been delayed too long, and the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated decades of inequality that are a result of racist policies and culture that leave Blacks dead last in everything: health care, education, economics, and politics. It’s time we build a more equal society. George Floyd was murdered by the police on video. Enough is enough.
As someone who has been a law and order person and a former conservative, I’ve been horrified that Republicans have cheered the use of military force against unarmed American protesters. The protesters are exercising their constitutional right of freedom of speech and assembly. Just this week the attorney general ordered federal law enforcement to use tear gas to disperse the protesters so Trump could take a photo with a Bible in front of a church. It was disgusting.
Black lives do indeed matter. They have been murdered and exploited for far too long. 400 years is enough. It is time for a society that incorporates Black people and treats them with humanity and compassion.