On Sunday, NFL player Colin Kaepernick once again took a knee during the national anthem. His right to protest is protected by the nation whose anthem he has chosen to scorn. And, while the issues of excessive force and racially fueled policing are valid and need to be discussed, conflating those specific issues with an indictment of America as a whole is a dangerous oversimplification.
The formal Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was largely formed to protest the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin in 2013, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Most reasonable human beings can agree that Black lives matter. But the movement that has taken the name “Black Lives Matter (BLM)” is anything but reasonable.
Their platform makes it clear.
When the Black Lives Matter platform calls for an end to private schools and the wholesale defunding of police, it became clear that BLM proponents see the world through the lens of “intersectionality”: an ideology whose proponents believe in a vast “matrix of oppression,” a kind of conspiracy theory that defines the world as an ongoing battle between black and white, rich and poor, men and women, and other opposing forces, always in conflict with each other. This has resulted in a superficial depiction of the challenges faced in inner city communities, and a media obsession and collusion with those who give expression to such reductive ways of thinking.
So when a football player like Kaepernick refuses to stand during the National Anthem and says “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” what started out as a protest movement against law enforcement using excessive force upon African-Americans has turned into a wholesale denunciation of America. Catch-all buzzwords like “oppression” are used to command media attention but offer no real-world solutions to complex problems — problems that are nuanced and require multiple courses of action: like the need to tackle over-policing and providing police officers with the space to deal with inner city crime in measured ways as well as education reform and support for entrepreneurial enterprise.
This comes as no surprise. Those who tow the BLM line have a tendency to reduce complex issues to slogans and rhetorical hype, just as the BLM platform itself has done. Ostensibly written to address pressing issues in the United States, its authors took the liberty to inject disparaging planks that demonize the state of Israel by accusing it of “genocide” — another term that, in addition to insulting Jews and other victims of real genocide, conflates legitimate concerns over law enforcement in America with the policies of a foreign country thousands of miles away – which has nothing to do with the matter of Black lives in America.
BLM even called for America to divest funds from Israel, and by doing so, joined forces with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), a group whose founders have called for dismantling the Jewish state. There is little explanation for BLM’s foray into geopolitics, and this unholy alliance can only be attributed to ignorance and a ride on the coattails of the current wave of acceptable anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment that’s running rampant throughout academic, intellectual and activist circles.
How can a group that screams about false equivalency when the topic of Black on Black violence is invoked, not realize the hypocrisy of identifying with BDS, a movement predicated on an entirely false narrative?
Americans would be wise to approach BLM with the seriousness it deserves, and critically assess its aims and aspirations. Black lives do matter, but slogans should not be mistaken for exercises in seriousness. In order for our communities to flourish, policies must be promoted by people dedicated to the dispassionate, pragmatic work that prosperity requires; nuance and prudence should triumph over catchphrases and empty gestures. And, athletes uninterested in making such contributions should spend more time studying the intricacies of these complicated issues before expressing their opinions in symbolic physical gestures and simplistic sound bites.