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Public Condemnation of the Black Lives Matter Movement

Alex Nabaum / NYT

On top of my feeling of depression about the poor state of race relations in this country in 2015, I have been angered by the public condemnations of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. In the past week, Bill O’Reilly, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, and Rand Paul, the presidential candidate, have all condemned Black Lives Matter for criticizing police action. I suspect that each of these persons is acting cynically to promote their own celebrity or political future. I immediately thought about all the condemnations I heard of “outside agitators” when growing up in Alabama in the 1960s. Damning protestors was an effort to avoid hearing black complaints about the injustices of segregation. It seems clear to me that O’Reilly, Haley, and Paul have sensed there is an audience out there of people who don’t want to face the facts of injustice in today’s criminal justice system. Choose your cliché: Blame the victim, shoot the messenger. It comes down to avoiding an uncomfortable reality.

If one looks way back for the origins of civil rights activity in the South, you will find that the immediate provocation for black action often was police brutality. Many NAACP chapters in smaller southern cities and towns were first founded in the aftermath of a cop or sheriff’s deputy killing a black person. What civil right was more necessary than the protection of life from summary execution by police? What power was greater to enforce white supremacy than the power of summary execution. That was the thing about lynching, whether done in the open or in the recesses of a southern jail: it was the symbol, and fact, of the white man’s final authority over any black man.

The New York Times provided an especially lucid, well-informed comment on this matter here.

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