I was born in London but raised in America; our family migrated to Florida when I was 8 years old. I grew up in what was called a ‘black neighbourhood’. We passed drug dealers almost every day at the bottom of my street to get to my house. I never thought anything about the helicopters that frequently hovered over my house at night. It was only when I watched the film ‘Boyz n the Hood’ years later that I realised they were in fact police searching for criminals. One day as my little brother and I played on the front lawn, my mum stepped outside the front door. Immediately, she noticed the police with guns drawn circling what we thought was an abandoned house three houses down. She screamed and told us to get in the house, terrified that we’d get hit with stray bullets. This is not every black neighbourhood, but this is how many black Americans live. I lived this life with them. I therefore understand the desperate need for social justice that allowed the Black Lives Matter (or BLM) saga to happen.
Before I explain, I’ll start with a bit of Greek mythology for context. The story of the Trojan Horse is set in the city of Troy around the 1100s. Odysseus was the legendary Grecian king of Ithaca who built a wooden horse and sent it as a gift to Troy. The Trojans pulled the horse into their city, unaware that it was filled with powerful warriors intent on destroying them. As night fell, the Greek warriors crept out, opened the Trojan gates to allow in the rest of their warriors, and together they destroyed the city of Troy. The Trojan horse is thus symbolic of any deceitful agenda cloaked in an apparent well-meaning intention. With that in mind I will discuss BLM - what I consider to be the Trojan horse of anti-racism activism and social justice.
BLM is both an ideology and an organisation. The phrase itself first began as a hashtag after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the 2013 murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in what was deemed as a racially motivated attack. The purpose of the hashtag was to affirm the worth of black lives which had been seemingly dehumanised by the ongoing problem of police brutality. What began as a social movement soon also became a prominent organisation called the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation launched by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Ayo Tometi. For years, BLM the foundation enjoyed charitable status by reliance on charities Thousand Currents and Tides Foundation, which acted as BLM’s fiscal sponsors. BLM became an independent charity in December 2020.
Although many other BLM chapters (which operate autonomously) have since been birthed around the world, the US-based BLM foundation is considered the premier voice of the movement and the basis on which all other chapters have come to exist. For clarity, in this blog I am neither addressing the BLM ideology, nor am I speaking about worldwide BLM chapters. This blog is focused on the motives and behaviours of those involved in the US-based BLM foundation, and the subsequent issue I have with BLM as a representative of blacks in the fight against racism.
Since the Trayvon Martin murder, BLM has touted itself as the voice of racial justice around the world, speaking out against police brutality and all inequality against blacks in every sector and institution. This all sounded noble to me on the face of it. That view changed when I caught wind of their agenda for the structure of the family, which had nothing at all to do with racial inequality. Their original ‘What We Believe’ website statement brazenly declared, ‘We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.’
While swept up in impassioned discussion and/or activism about the racial divide in America, most people had no idea about BLM’s agenda for family. Once I learned of it I took great exception to it, not simply because I was raised in a nuclear family or because I happen to be part of my own now. It is because I consider it incredibly sinister to capitalise on an innocent black boy’s death to promote a completely unrelated and questionable agenda. Surely, to promote acceptance of various family structures which raise healthy, well-adjusted children is understandable. But to ‘disrupt’ the nuclear family in the name of diversity – or whatever their motives were – is destructive.
Millions of children were and are raised successfully in nuclear families every day. To suggest that this structure should be ‘disrupted’ in favour of families otherwise structured is incredibly intolerant and dangerous. It is particularly detrimental to black people in the US, where nearly 60% of black families (more than any other demographic) are negatively impacted by fatherlessness. It is statistically proven that these households suffer from greater levels of poverty, drug/alcohol abuse, and poor emotional/physical health than in nuclear families. If black lives truly mattered to BLM, their plan to ‘disrupt’ the nuclear family would never have been on their agenda in the first place. Knowledge of this plan eventually became more widespread as the organisation’s profile grew in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minnesota police in May 2020. As backlash grew against their planned ‘disruption’, BLM quickly removed the statement from their website around autumn 2020.
After Floyd’s murder, BLM rose to international prominence. Its influence as an organisation was directly fuelled by the BLM ideology as a movement. According to one study, the BLM movement in the wake of Floyd’s death inspired at least 8,700 demonstrations in 74 countries for several weeks in the most powerful and breath-taking scenes of universal protest in modern history. While this reinforced BLM the foundation in the public consciousness as a key voice in the battle for social justice, problems were brewing behind the scenes.
By spring 2021, BLM had raised over $90 million in donations by courting the causes of Floyd and previous black victims of police violence including Tamir Rice, Michael Brown Jr and Breonna Taylor. However, having failed to benefit in any way from BLM’s involvement, parents of these victims spoke out by raising concerns about BLM’s use of donations. Eventually, 10 BLM chapters were calling for an independent investigation into the foundation’s finances. Concerns of financial misuse were fuelled by knowledge that Cullors, one of founders, had been living an opulent lifestyle and owned multiple properties worth over $3 million. Where was she getting this money? Cullors said that she generated her own wealth and suggested that she was a victim of a right-wing smear campaign. However, she was unable to deflect from the reality that members of her own black community were raising questions. In response to the controversy, Cullors resigned in May 2021. Yet, more financial discrepancies were soon to emerge.
When Cullors stepped down, she appointed two activists, Makani Themba and Monifa Bandele, to take over as the charity’s foundation’s directors. However, in September 2021 the activists quietly announced that they did not take up these positions due to internal disagreements. By January 2022, new questions around the management of BLM’s finances became public. There are currently two BLM board members, Shalomyah Bowers and Raymond Howard – both of whom refuse to answer questions about who is in charge of BLM’s $60 million in cash assets. Themba or Bandele claim not to know the answer to this question either. BLM financial audits reflect curious patterns around the award of contracts to close relations and inordinate expenditures for nebulous ‘professional fees’ and luxuriate ‘meetings.’ Yet, no one wants to talk about the propriety or legitimacy of these costs. And if you plan on visiting BLM’s headquarters for any reason, you can forget it. They don’t even have a main office anymore. As it stands, the current operation of BLM is a total mystery without accountability. So much for social justice.
Singer India.Arie made a whole lot of fuss about Joe Rogan saying the n-word recently. She is strangely quiet about BLM’s conduct, though. Trust me, Rogan gets no pass from me. His racist comments were disgusting, and I am not sure I buy his ‘apology’. But black people should be just as outraged, if not more so, against BLM as they are against racist white individuals and institutions. Exploitation is worse when done at the hands of one of your own. BLM have the influence and financial resources to transform black lives by building homes, developing communities, implementing employment programmes, creating initiatives for education, and improving physical/mental health. But apparently black lives don’t matter that much to them after all. After galloping in on the Trojan horse of activism, BLM has obscenely exploited high-profile black murders to further their warped agenda of destroying families and making their founders rich. BLM has hurt the black cause far more than it has helped.
Does prejudice against black people exist? Yes. Does systemic racism exist? Definitely. Are black people particularly disadvantaged by the criminal justice system? No doubt. Is modern society still impacted by historical issues of slavery and colonialism? Without question. As a black person, am I tired of talking about all of this??!! YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT. Why? Because these facts are only part of the problem. One big problem, as history has proven, is that we don’t realise – or want to accept – how much power we have as black people to change our own circumstances. It seems it is far easier to protest on the streets than it is to change our own lives.
While in America, from 5th grade (aged 10) I was bussed to schools in ‘white neighbourhoods’ along with other black kids from my area. It was the black kids on the bus – not the white kids at school - who made fun of me for being different (British of Jamaican ethnicity). They mocked me for ‘talking white’ because I spoke proper English and teased me for taking textbooks to school each day. While they were preoccupied with issues of race and oppression from ‘the white man’, whether true or not none of this stopped me from working hard and eventually graduating high school with honours in the top 5% of my class. I left high school with two scholarships and was accepted into all three universities I applied to.
Outcomes for some other kids weren’t so great. A boy on my bus got shot in the face. He survived but never returned to school. Two girls on the bus who used to bully me mercilessly got pregnant while still in high school. One of them managed to graduate while pregnant; the one other dropped out. Another lovely girl I used to walk to the bus stop with had a baby at 12. I don’t know what happened to her by the time high school was over. I am not suggesting that I am better than anybody here. I am simply demonstrating that we were all black living in the same ‘ghetto’ but had different outcomes because of personal choices – not because of the ‘white man’.
In another great example, Nigerian immigrants in America currently have more university degrees than any other demographic in the country, including white Americans. They have achieved this despite the challenges they have faced from racism. They choose to succeed rather than beg for permission from white people to do it.
There is always a place for anti-racism activism. The mistake is in believing that this is the only solution for the problems we face as black people. Organisations like BLM make us preoccupied with what racist white people do while deflecting from the evils we do to ourselves. When black Navy veteran and former police officer Peggy Hubbard spoke out about these issues in 2015, her video went viral. But the message hasn't translated into change. Why is there no outrage about the fatherlessness, gang violence, drug-dealing and teenage pregnancy still prevalent amongst us? Why is there no outcry about the detrimental aspects of hip-hop culture? How much better would black lives and communities be if we mattered to ourselves as much as we seemingly want to matter to white people?
As for white people who have participated in the BLM movement, I have this to say. Some of you have taken part out of a genuine desire to fight racism, for which I sincerely thank you. However, I hope your allegiance is with BLM the ideology and not to BLM the foundation, which has demonstrated that evil happens in all colours. Black lives do matter, but integrity matters more. BLM don’t get to exploit black people just because they’re black. If you really want to make a difference, take a stand against BLM, too.
For whites who use the failings of BLM to dismiss the reality of racism, I say this. ‘All Lives Matter’, ‘White Lives Matter’, ‘Blue Lives Matter’ – these statements are, of course, technically true. But they are often reactionary proclamations said in arrogance by those desperate to hold on to supremacy. My words in this blog are not written to serve your racist purposes. BLM’s failures do not make you right. You are still wrong, and you are still part of the problem.
I'll close with this. BLM proves that real social justice has its roots in personal integrity – not in a mantra, a protest, or an organisation. There are lessons for us all to learn here. To start with, we should stop using causes and campaigns to make ourselves appear morally superior to others. And we should stop using the noise of activism to drown out the truth. No matter what colour you are, if you want to make a real difference in the world, start with being honest with yourself, being a decent person and being responsible for the life you lead. If we all do that, I'm sure we'll all get along just fine.