BLACK VOICES

What People Are Really Saying When They Complain About 'Black Lives Matter' Protests

04/15/2015 05:32 pm ET | Updated Apr 17, 2015
ROBYN BECK via Getty Images

Protesters gathered in cities across the U.S. on Tuesday, in the latest round of demonstrations against police violence, misconduct and mistreatment of minority communities.

In New York City, an estimated crowd of 400 participants marched across Brooklyn Bridge, on their way south from Manhattan to Brooklyn. A plainclothes policeman reportedly drew his firearm on a crowd of demonstrators after allegedly being attacked. Both officers and protesters reported injuries in the resulting fracas, which ultimately ended with 42 arrests.

In what has become a common display of disobedience at these demonstrations, protesters also reportedly hopped the bridge's pedestrian barrier and ran across vehicle lanes, snarling traffic. Similar scenes unfolded at protests around the nation Tuesday, as demonstrators streamed out into major thoroughfares and slowed or blocked cars from passing. These acts are almost always illegal, and the widespread disruption they cause has become a regular point of criticism, particularly from people outside the movement.

These resulting complaints and others, though, often tend to be shortsighted and selfish. Those complaining miss the broader point about why these protests are happening in the first place, and show that some people's support of this movement is entirely conditional on their not being personally affected by it in any way whatsoever.

Obviously, nobody likes to be inconvenienced, and particularly not during an evening commute, which in all likelihood sucks as it is. And yes, brunch might be more pleasant if it weren't interrupted by someone reading off the names of African-Americans killed by police. We understand that some people feel these are massive intrusions on their lives. But maybe it's time they understood that this is what their complaints sound like.

WHAT THEY SAY:

"I'm fine with protesting, but why don't they protest in front of a police station or another approved location instead of blocking traffic?"

WHAT WE HEAR:

"I'm fine with protesting, as long as I'm not forced to see it, hear it, acknowledge it, be at all inconvenienced by it or challenged to do anything about it."

WHAT THEY SAY:

"Protesting is pointless. It doesn't make a difference."

WHAT WE HEAR:

"Protesting is pointless because I don't see any immediate change and my life is comfortable enough that I'm happy to continue accepting the status quo."

WHAT THEY SAY:

"I agree that 'Black Lives Matter,' but disrupting my commute will only turn me against these protests."

WHAT WE HEAR:

"I agree that 'Black Lives Matter,' but every little piece of my daily life matters more."

WHAT THEY SAY:

"I understand why people are protesting, but regular people would be more likely to support them if the protests didn't mess up their daily lives."

WHAT WE HEAR:

"I understand why people are protesting, but regular people were totally on the verge of being shaken out of their complacency until protesters inconvenienced them with their tactics. Pretty much, it's the protesters' fault that the public is still overwhelmingly apathetic."

WHAT THEY SAY:

"I support the right to protest, but why don't people get out and organize voters instead? That's how change is supposed to work."

WHAT WE HEAR:

"I support the right to protest, but can't people just trust that a system that has failed to address these injustices for decades will one day eventually fix them? Also, I choose not to pay attention to any efforts beyond these protests because I actually don't care that much."

WHAT THEY SAY:

“I know people are angry, but why don't they propose some solutions instead of just messing stuff up?"

WHAT WE HEAR:

"I know people are angry, but I haven't been paying any attention to the protesters' demands so I'll just pretend they don't exist."

WHAT THEY SAY:

"I'm against police brutality, but these protests only make people more sympathetic to police."

WHAT WE HEAR:

"I'm against police brutality, but any disruption to my daily life should be treated as a criminal offense possibly deserving of physical suppression and excessive force."

WHAT THEY SAY:

"I get that people are upset, but breaking the law in protest of other violations just seems counterproductive."

WHAT WE HEAR:

"I get that people are upset, but why don't they just ask politely for change? Also, I have absolutely no clue what civil disobedience is all about."

WHAT THEY SAY:

“Protests are a fundamental right, but I don’t like that they're costing cities millions of dollars in police overtime.”

WHAT WE HEAR:

“Protests are a fundamental right, but balance sheets are more important than #BlackLivesMatter. Also, I choose to ignore the millions of dollars cities spend settling police brutality lawsuits, or on arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people of color for petty crimes.”

WHAT THEY SAY:

"I'm against these injustices, but until #BlackLivesMatter becomes #AllLivesMatter, the movement won't experience widespread support."

WHAT WE HEAR:

"I'm against these injustices, but I can't support any movement that doesn't make me feel like I have a personal stake in it. Also, I totally don't see race or color."

Also on HuffPost:

"Black Lives Matter" March
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