The Mythologies of Black Lives Matter
Victor Davis Hanson
The New Criterion
March 21, 2022
On the development of the activist movement
Polls taken in November 2021 showed a sharp drop in the popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement that had once peaked in June 2020 at over 50 percent public approval. The recent liberal Civiqs survey, commissioned by the hard-Left website Daily Kos, found of those registered voters who expressed a clear opinion, about 44 percent were opposed to BLM. Only 43 percent polled supportive.
Most telling, those identifying as independent voters were less sympathetic (49 percent opposed) than the public at large. A recent Morning Consult/Politico poll replicated the Civiqs findings. And an even earlier August 2020 Harvard/Harris poll, taken before the release of 2020 annual crime statistics, the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, and the Waukesha killings, found that 57 percent of the public had a negative view of BLM.
What explains both the original rise and the current fall of BLM? The loosely formed black-advocacy national organization reached its apex in public sympathy after the May 2020 death of George Floyd in police custody, which resulted in the subsequent murder conviction in April 2021 of the Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Yet in the eighteen months since Floyd’s death, BLM has insidiously alienated the public.
BLM advocates rarely offer any public opinion without resorting to almost obsessive-compulsive charges of racism. Surprised at their current dismal poll results, BLM leaders and supporters claimed that the drop in popularity over a year later was a reassertion of only temporarily dormant white racism. They believed that the Civiqs poll (perhaps correctly) reflected real white majority opinion. So the Critical Race Theory professor Vida Robertson intoned, “These polls are quite representative of America’s approach. There’s no historical evidence whatsoever that America has ever been interested in Black liberation and building an equitable society.”
Racism, then, is apparently calibrated by the degree to which one supports or opposes BLM: whites were given only a brief reprieve amid the post–George Floyd upheavals for their empathy for BLM. But now its sinking popularity once more indicts them. Few BLM leaders admit that the organization is largely culpable for its decline, which owes especially to unpopular and destructive ideologies and policies that BLM has so often insinuated successfully into the policies of big-city mayors and district attorneys.
If we accept the BLM premise that racial solidarity among whites equals racism, then it is difficult to explain how lockstep racial solidarity for BLM, most pronounced among blacks (82 percent approval), is not itself racist. So, we are back to the paradigm of citing white racism even when whites vote less predictably along tribal lines than do blacks. In 2008, for example, the white vote was higher (by three points) for the presidential candidate Barack Obama than it had been four years earlier for the Democratic nominee, John Kerry, while the black vote increased even more dramatically (by seven points) for Obama.
More germanely, BLM certainly is correct that the climate of late 2021 and 2022 is no longer that of early summer 2020. To be fair, all activist movements that spread like wildfire can burn out simply due to ennui, distractions, and the diminishment of media fuel and attention. Yet, more importantly, the zeal of revolutionaries eventually risks collateral damage to kindred ideologues, or, more often, extends exemptions to culpable allies that boomerang as charges of hypocrisy. Leftists are often felt to be too valuable to the cause to be lost to the movement, thus exposing so-called idealists as hypocritical rather than principled.
For example, it was not Donald Trump but the candidate Joe Biden who, at the peak of BLM’s power and without much pushback from BLM, derided a black interviewer as a “junkie,” and said in another interview “you ain’t black”if you didn’t vote for him. Later, as president, Biden referred to an African-American advisor as a “boy” and Satchel Paige as a “the great negro at the time.” Again, BLM was largely silent, even with Biden’s prior racialist “Corn Pop” fantasies. And it had no desire to rehash Biden’s earlier characterization of Barack Obama as the first “mainstream” African-American presidential candidate who was also “clean” and “articulate.”
In the similar case of the #MeToo movement, once too many liberal icons risked career implosions due to increasing focus on what they did and said, cancel-culture activism became considered too cannibalistic to continue. “Believe all women” jumped the proverbial shark when, in March 2020, a former Biden aide named Tara Reade made credible charges that a younger Senator Biden in 1993 had once sexually assaulted her. That allegation threatened to derail the only 2020 Democratic presidential candidate perceived as able to beat Donald Trump. This calculus thus earned Reade the countercharge from feminists that she should not be believed. Such hypocrisy marked the veritable end of #MeToo as a credible and consistent advocacy campaign.
The ideology, leadership, and current national political climate—coupled with the news cycles of the last eighteen months—also explain the downward popular spiral of BLM. The more concern about police violence waned in the months after the Floyd death and waxed about ensuing skyrocketing violent-crime rates, the more residual focus shifted instead to BLM itself and the perceived negative effects of its strident advocacy on society at large, mostly in its campaign to defund the police. The result of such recalibrated awareness was new disapproval of both BLM’s acts of commission and omission.
What once fueled BLM’s stature was the perception that it had played a useful role for the Left in galvanizing minority opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump, especially during the upheavals in major American cities during the summer of 2020. For all its talk of spontaneity and grassroots outrage, BLM’s sanctioned street violence was seen as useful in the summer of 2020 but increasingly counterproductive as the November 2020 election approached. Despite Trump’s eventual success in gaining more black and Latino voters than most past Republican presidents, he was nonetheless cast in the media and by BLM as a catalyst for one hundred twenty days of violence, and thus his absence would and should naturally end it. Indeed, in a bizarre Time magazine article, the insider journalist Molly Ball, after the 2020 election, even bragged about a good cabal of rich and “powerful people” who had managed to modulate the street protests to help Biden and hurt Trump: “There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes, one that both curtailed the protests and coordinated the resistance from CEOs.”
Ironically for BLM, with Trump’s exit from office in January 2021, and with Joe Biden finding himself atop the Washington establishment, BLM’s prior utility to the Left as a romantic, revolutionary, anti-Trump force was lost. The movement became more dispensable. With the hard Left now in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, with Vice President Kamala Harris just a heartbeat away from the Oval Office, and with a commander-in-chief exhibiting general cognitive fragility, BLM itself no longer enjoyed its prior status as a convenient national receptacle for black anger and social upheaval. Liberal observers went from the notion of “Trump caused justified BLM anger and activism” to“Why would BLM continue the planned unrest when we are in power?”
The origins of BLM remained controversial and mostly obscure, given that, like many cults’ foundational myths, they were based on abject untruths and were often hidden or disguised. The birth of the new black-advocacy group, first emerging as the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, is credited to three avowed and self-described leftists. Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza welcomed epithets such as “cultural Marxists.” Their efforts at forming BLM were in response to the supposedly racist shooting in February 2012 of Trayvon Martin by a volunteer neighborhood security guard, George Zimmerman, and his subsequent exoneration of any criminal culpability.
Note first that Khan-Cullors has been in the news most recently in the context of something rather different from fighting for racial justice. The amount of corporate money—over $90 million in 2020 alone—that flowed into the BLM national coffers after the death of George Floyd was as staggering as its dispersions were poorly audited. Accordingly, Khan-Cullors in 2021 announced her retirement from BLM. But her departure occurred in the context of news disclosures that she had spent over $3 million for at least four houses, one of which was a $1.4 million home in the nearly all-white area of Topanga Canyon, not far from Malibu.
Such acquisitive habits and tony tastes seemed at odds with a vocal self-described Marxist who had damned the inequality inherent in capitalism. Her choice of an elite, mostly white California zip code as her primary residence also appeared ironic for someone who had helped create a movement based on the idea that whiteness was at war with and toxic to the black population—with redistributive racialist Marxism the best cure.
As a sharp critic of border enforcement and the police, it was further problematic that Khan-Cullors almost immediately paid cash for a $35,000 security fence with an electric gate around her new home. Or was it all that illogical for Khan-Cullors to install a sophisticated security system since she had called for the entire abolition of the police, jails, prison, and the court system? Still, the public does not like political grifting. Note the implosion of the Lincoln Project, beset with charges of hypocrisy, incestuous profiteering, and even pederasty. But the public especially does not accept hypocritical grifting by capitalist profiteers masquerading as Marxist social justice warriors surfing their revolution to Topanga Canyon.
Moreover, we now forget that BLM was founded as an advocacy group that initially focused more narrowly on purported bias against gay and transgendered blacks—not so much endemic racism per se. Or, as a recent ABC News article emphasized in both its title and subtitle, “From the start, Black Lives Matter has been about LGBTQ lives. Two of three Black Lives Matter founders identify as queer.”
That headline is somewhat paradoxical given that, among progressive voters, there has been a long-held perception, rightly or wrongly, that black voters were among the least supportive constituencies of gay marriage and transgender rights. That worry prompted the left-wing, gay presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg in 2020 to run black focus groups during the South Carolina primary. He was fearful, apparently with cause, that the state’s large Democratic black vote would be lost in part due to his overt homosexuality. Recall how in 2008 it was black voters who were often held responsible for the defeat of Proposition 8, which would have allowed gay marriage in California. Such toxic bias plagued, for example, the current MSNBC host and racial firebrand Joy Reid. Only with all sorts of verbal gymnastics, fantasy stories about computer hacks, countercharges of racism, and eventual forced half-apologies was Reid able to sidestep a long social media record of her past homophobic slurs.
Buttigieg’s pollsters who surveyed three small but varied black focus groups warned their candidate that “Being gay was a barrier for these voters, particularly for the men who seemed deeply uncomfortable even discussing it.” If it were true that BLM has “from the start” been “about LGBTQ lives,” then its chief challenge might have been logically directed at changing the hearts and minds of blacks rather than just a general condemnation of the white population. That original BLM emphasis on enlightening the black community about perceived homosexual bias was completely lost in subsequent years, as millions of corporate donations rolled in. Meanwhile, the gay Marxist black women leaders of the movement had agendas that superseded those of the black community at large.
After its 2012 founding, BLM did not achieve real notice again until August 2014, in the aftermath of the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of a suspect, Michael Brown. During the subsequent rioting in Ferguson and media coverage, BLM played the most prominent role in advancing the false narrative that Michael Brown was gratuitously murdered by Officer Darren Wilson. For example, in a hagiographic account of BLM in TheGuardian (“Black Lives Matter: The Birth of a Movement”), Wesley Lowery explained BLM’s popularity both as a reaction to several allegedly unjustified police shootings of black suspects and as the ushering in of a new generation of more ideological and confrontational post-civil-rights activists:
Even if you believe Mike Brown’s own questionable choices sealed his fate, did Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Sandra Bland all deserve to die? Ferguson would mark the arrival on the national stage of a new generation of black political activists—young leaders whose parents and grandparents had been born as recently as the 1970s and 1980s, an era many considered to be post-civil rights.
“Black Lives Matter,” in its expanded incarnation, was meant to convey the idea that so-called white people, especially those armed and in law enforcement, or more generally employed in security, did not value the lives of African Americans to the same degree they did those of whites. The white majority needed both to be reminded of that fact and to face commensurate pressures to change their behaviors and to offer redress.
Yet juries found that both the shooters of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, respectively George Zimmerman and Officer Darren Wilson, had acted in self-defense and with justified force when first assaulted by Martin and Brown. Many of the BLM-generated alternative narratives surrounding both cases were simply factually inaccurate. Zimmerman—despite the media’s use of a photoshopped picture that erased some of his facial and head injuries suffered from Martin, and an edited 911 tape falsely calibrated to make him sound racist—had been beaten in a fistfight by Martin and fired in self-defense.
The New York Times also found Zimmerman’s own Latin American ancestry inconvenient to its racialist agendas. His mother was Peruvian. Zimmerman himself had previously identified as Hispanic on voter-registration forms. As a result, the media avoided reporting a less controversial brown-on-black shooting by quickly coining the term “white Hispanic” for Zimmerman—in a way quite different from, say, its coverage of a half-black Barack Obama as “black” rather than “white-black” to reflect his biracial parentage.
In the end, Zimmerman’s acquittal by a jury of all murder charges was not challenged. Federal prosecutors from the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, working under Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as officials from the FBI and the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, all found that Martin’s civil rights had not been violated. Nor did they seek any further federal prosecutions of Zimmerman.
As for Ferguson’s Michael Brown, he had never shouted to Officer Wilson, as BLM insisted and the media echoed, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Instead, after being stopped by Wilson on reports that Brown had just robbed a convenience store and assaulted the clerk, Brown reached into the car after Wilson, assaulted him, and grabbed at the officer’s weapon. After an altercation and a firing of the weapon, Brown fled, chased by the officer. Brown then turned around, faced Wilson, and charged him. At that point, the officer shot and killed the advancing Brown. The fact that Brown’s body was left at the scene of the shooting for four hours where he was shot was reprehensible. But that callous laxity did not change the fact that the policeman’s use of lethal force was found by later examination to be justified.
So, both police investigations and local prosecutors found that Wilson had clearly acted in self-defense. After days of rioting and violent protests, much of it encouraged by an ascendent BLM, Eric Holder’s Department of Justice once again reinvestigated. The Obama administration DOJ once more concluded that Wilson had not violated Brown’s civil rights, a finding based on credible witnesses and forensic evidence. The local St. Louis County grand jury examined over five thousand pages of testimony. It came to the same conclusion as a self-defense shooting. No matter—still a third additional prosecutorial party, St. Louis District Attorney Wesley Bell, spent over five months reviewing the case on promises to reopen the investigation. He too also ultimately found no wrongdoing.
In sum, the two seminal events in the birth and growth of BLM offered little support for the organization’s charter indictments of a racist and venomous America waging a veritable war on blacks spearheaded by biased police. These latter themes had diverted BLM from its origins as a Marxist-centered anti-homophobic advocacy group to its present role of combating supposedly systemic racialized police brutality.
What revived an increasingly anemic BLM as a potent political force was the tragic death of George Floyd—and the poignant video recordings of his pleas for help in extremis. A jury found officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering Floyd. It decided that Floyd’s resistance to arrest, his long prior felonious and violent record, his attempt to pass counterfeit currency that had prompted his police arrest, and his then-current dangerous state of drug intoxication were immaterial to the circumstances that led to his death. Certainly, the smug look on Officer Chauvin’s face, broadcast around the world, together with Floyd’s anguished plea that he could not breathe, and the officer’s seemingly callous insistence at keeping a knee apparently on his neck collectively made most of America angry at the televised indifference to a suffocating suspect.
The ensuing results were one hundred twenty days of riot, arson, and murder and over thirty deaths, $2 billion in damage, and 14,000 arrests—and a radical BLM mission reboot that eventually included spin-off agendas from mandatory capitalization of the word “Black” and the crucial allotment of rationed covid-19 tests and medications partly on the basis of race to legions of new diversity, equity, and inclusion czars at universities, bureaucracies, and corporations—all immune from the usual staff and union charges of unnecessary administrative bloat.
Yet, again, the chief charge of BLM against America—that Floyd’s death was indicative of systemic racism among law enforcement that led to inordinate deaths of black suspects—was simply not true. So far, BLM has produced no clear-cut data that supports the claim that victims such as Martin and Brown were part of a larger institutionalized pattern of anti-black police violence.
Instead, statistics show that the number of unarmed black suspects killed by police does not illustrate a racially biased disproportionate use of lethal force, at least in proportion to the numbers of blacks taken into police custody of the some ten to eleven million Americans who are recorded as arrested each year. In 2019 The Washington Post found that, nationwide, the police shot and killed about fifty-five unarmed suspects. Among the various groups, twenty-five were white and fourteen black. Not all those shootings involved police culpability, but among the suspects were included many who resisted arrest and sometimes violently tried to flee.
Blacks represented about 25 percent of all races of those lethally shot while unarmed in contact with the police. That number was roughly twice as high as their percentages within the general population (i.e., 12–13 percent)—but not disproportionate when compared to the percentages of blacks arrested each year for violent and non-violent crimes (roughly 25–27 percent) among suspects who were identified by race. Studies have shown that the race of the officer has also not been predictive of the race of the unarmed suspect shot during arrest.
In terms of arrests for violent crimes, where the race of the perpetrators is known, blacks account for over 50 percent of those arrested for robbery, murder, and manslaughter. FBI statistics also reveal that blacks, not whites, are also overrepresented percentage-wise as the perpetrators of hate crimes and commit them at rates three times proportionally higher than do whites. In general, black males commit violent crimes at nearly four times their rates in the general population. Recently, in an incisive article about the media’s indifference to black-on-black crime, especially that directed against children, and its racialist double-standard of reporting interracial crimes, Heather Mac Donald noted:
School shootings with white perpetrators and white victims are even rarer than school shootings generally, but they get all the attention. They are irrelevant to the U.S. homicide toll, which last year topped 20,000 victims. (More than half of those 20,000 homicide victims were black, though blacks are less than 13 percent of the population; their killers were overwhelmingly neither whites nor cops, but instead other black civilians.) White-on-white school shootings receive disproportionate attention partly because the media value white life more than black life (except in those vanishingly few instances involving a white shooter and black victim). But saturation coverage of the handful of white-on-white school shootings is also essential to establishing the myth that whites with legal guns, especially those from Trump-voting areas, are the biggest criminal and terror threat today. Never mind that black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit lethal gun violence at over ten times the rate of white and Hispanic teen males combined.
BLM has mostly successfully silenced any discussion of these disturbing issues in popular discourse. Indeed, to talk of black-on-black crime or the greater propensity of black-on-white than white-on-black crime is to be all but indicted as a racist. In the general climate of defunding the police, and with the prevalence of leftist district attorneys who often do not prosecute crimes envisioned as originating from social justice issues, violence has spiked. To the degree that BLM does talk about inordinate violent criminal activity, it is often to excuse or contextualize it.
Murder in America reached its highest per annum increase (up 30 percent) in modern history in 2020. In 2021, twelve major cities by early December had already posted record murder totals. They were not just Philadelphia or Washington, D.C., but also supposedly progressive white-majority cities like Austin, Portland, and St. Paul.
In 2020, some 8,600 blacks were murdered, a number that only increased in 2021. In 2021 a record number of police were shot (around 314) and a near-record (fifty-eight) murdered. Heather Mac Donald has also shattered the mythology that police inordinately shoot unarmed black men and instead reminds us that blacks are disproportionately lethally shooting police:
Historically, black males have made up over 40 percent of cop-killers nationwide, though black males are 6 percent of the population.
Conservatively estimating that 40 percent of the cop-killers this year have been black, 26 officers have been killed by a black suspect in 2021, for a rate of nearly four cops per 100,000 officers killed by black civilians. A police officer is about 400 times as likely to be killed by a black suspect as an unarmed black is to be killed by a police officer.
About this epidemic of violent loss of life, mostly in the inner city, BLM was all but silent, given that its main premise was that crime, in general, was a reflection not, in part, of social pathologies in particular communities, but was entirely due to the inherent racist nature of the United States in general. In BLM thinking, to talk of fatherless households or the need for school reform would be to cancel out its existence, which is predicated on blaming America in general, and white America in particular, for the disproportionate violence in the black community.
Trapped in such a rhetorical prison that demanded defunding the police and the release of convicted felons—both acts most dangerous to the black communities of the inner cities—the BLM leadership simply went silent on the thousands of blacks killed by other blacks and the data that showed unarmed blacks were not inordinately killed by white police officers.
When New York City’s incoming Mayor Eric Adams vowed to be “conservative on public safety,” the local chapter head of Black Lives Matter grew irate at the very mention of reforming the plainclothes crime units of the NYPD discarded by former mayor Bill de Blasio. Indeed, the cofounder of New York BLM promised in response that there would be “riots,” “fire,” and “bloodshed.”
Such nihilist attitudes toward spiraling crime rates are now BLM orthodoxy. Recently, four BLM activists—Jessica Louise, Kyra Jay Harvey, Michelle Anastasia, and Leah Derray—addressed a largely black group of Indianapolis public school students and in postmodern fashion reminded them that
[c]rime is made up. People created these rules and people break them. It’s just that if you are black, brown, or poor, you are more likely to be jailed for these things, to be enslaved, imprisoned, for these things that a lot of people do.
Remember that BLM was created by intent to be quite different from the original civil rights movements that had once appealed to white America to live up to the standards that had been enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and subsequent congressional legislation and court rulings. And while some early civil rights leaders purportedly harbored hard-leftist sympathies, the movement was careful to isolate most alleged Marxists from its hierarchy.
In contrast, BLM championed Marxist ideology from the very beginning, and it usually weighed in on several leftist causes, from illegal immigration to climate change to transgenderism. Yet its chief difference from the civil rights movement was the notion that America at present is not redeemable, given that its origins (in 1619, not 1776) were racist from the beginning, increasingly racist during its maturation, and more covertly and systemically racist in the present, with no hope it would not be in the future, at least as presently constituted.
If BLM cannot, then, discuss rationally the extent, causes, and remedies of the current epidemic of black-on-black crime, it is equally silent on the general increase in hate crimes. The reporting of the latter by the media is often disingenuous and passed off as a largely white phenomenon as if nearly 70 percent of the population were committing such crimes at disproportionate rates. In fact, the very opposite is true. The black population, at roughly 13 percent of the population, commits a disproportionate number of hate crimes by any measurement, nearly double their percentage of the general population. In contrast, whites committing hate crimes, even in recent recalibrations of such definitions, account for only about 50 percent of the perpetrators.
If BLM’s origins were predicated on the untruths surrounding the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown shootings, and its growth on the myths of law enforcement’s lethal war against unarmed blacks, its ascendence until now was assured largely by the George Floyd death and the political weaponization of the hundred twenty days of Antifa and BLM looting, arson, and violence that followed.
Yet one of the little-appreciated aspects of BLM was how easily it had become part of the mainstream of public discourse and popular culture. This manifested in the acceptance of overt hostility to whites as a collective. Such toxic stereotyping was not in any sense seen as racist, even though exhibiting prejudice against a single group based on race is the definition of racism. The Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, proudly claimed at one point that she would refuse to grant interviews to white reporters. The Nation’s Elie Mystal remarked that after the end of the lockdowns he looked forward to a new “whiteness-free” life. One wonders whether Mystal meant such segregationist musings in regards to his mostly white colleagues at The Nation, or the business associates of his wife, a legal counsel at the mostly white JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Damon Young—a senior editor of The Root and an occasional New York Times contributor—charged that white pathologies were almost disease-like: “Whiteness is a public health crisis. It shortens life expectancies.” And the Barnard College English instructor Ben Philippe recently wrote a novel envisioning the mass gassing and blowing-up of white people. In a Yale School of Medicine public lecture, the New York psychiatrist Dr. Aruna Khilanani felt emboldened to suggest her hatred of white people included imagining their violent deaths:
This is the cost of talking to white people at all—the cost of your own life, as they suck you dry. There are no good apples out there. White people make my blood boil. . . . I took some actions. I systematically white-ghosted most of my white friends, and I got rid of the couple white bipocs that snuck in my crew, too. . . . I had fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body, and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step, like I did the world a favor.
Note that these most virulent expressions of segregation, apartheid and racial violence are found among the most privileged and elite of left-wing activists and politicians. Apparently, they are confident in the BLM mood of the times that old taboos about racial stereotyping and hate speech are now mostly irrelevant. And yet in their obliviousness to their class privilege and the increasing class divides that are overtaking race as barometers of inequality, they sound somewhat ridiculous as authentic spokespeople for the victims of institutionalized racism.
Inspired by this new BLM revisionism, The New York Times generated mythologies around the date of the nation’s founding (now said to be 1619, when the first slaves arrived from Africa) followed. Critical Race Theory indoctrination in primary schools, the separation of students by race in classrooms, and the increasing acceptance of racially segregated spaces, dorms, and graduations on campus also grew in the wake of BLM street pressures and success. Again, if this was the boutique expression of BLM performance art, then the more dire consequences were on the streets of America.
In 2021, the hard Left within the Biden administration, and its kindred spirits at the state and local level, decriminalized an assortment of violent crimes. In response, gangs staged serial large-scale thefts of upscale stores in the Bay Area, Chicago, and New York. The crime spree lapped into suburban shopping centers and even boutique stores from Beverly Hills to Carmel to Walnut Creek. Two high-profile—and loudly progressive—federal and state representatives were carjacked at gunpoint by black suspects. Ironically, the two female victims were loud advocates for defunding traditional police forces.
BLM’s increasing irrelevance was made evident when Beverly Hills residents were observed buying firearms in record numbers and the local liberal city council voted unanimously to support the recall of the left-wing, Soros-funded Los Angeles County District Attorney, George Gascón. Hollywood celebrities are now hiring droves of new security guards. A hard-Left campus organ, The Stanford Daily, published an op-ed faulting BLM for indifference to rising crime rates: “Homicide is also the leading cause of death among Black males aged 1–44 years, which is not the case for any other ethnic group, but these numbers never seem to make it into BLM talking points.”
So, the ongoing collapse in BLM support did not come from white conservative opposition alone. Inner-city blacks in 2020–21 were likely more concerned with rising internecine criminality rather than black solidarity in blaming law enforcement. An increasing number of independents and liberals were scared that their neighborhoods and shopping haunts were now fair game for criminals without fear in a climate of defunded police and ideologically driven district attorneys. If an elite had once felt its progressivism won exemption from BLM, it became increasingly perturbed that BLM said little when liberal affluence seemed to offer no exemption or even to attract criminal attacks to their zip codes.
BLM is now unpopular for a variety of reasons. A spiking crime wave, associated with BLM’s advocacy of lax prosecution and defunding law enforcement, hit hard the two core constituencies of the Left—the minority poor and the very rich and liberal. The end of the Trump presidency removed a common bogeyman among the Left—and the perceived usefulness of BLM to the Democratic establishment. The revelations of the false narratives surrounding BLM’s origins and the hypocrisies of its founders further eroded support. Finally, there were three additional totemic acts of violence (or supposed violence) in the news that have revealed to the public the often absurd racism of BLM.
The first was the farcical Jussie Smollett hoax. In December 2021 Smollett was found guilty on five of six counts of lying to authorities in staging a fake hate crime. His preposterous story of white, maga-hatted racists roaming Chicago at 2 a.m. in subfreezing weather, apparently intent on finding black gay actors of Empire to assault, to douse with bleach, and to decorate with a noose, should have fooled no one. But some members of the Left apparently felt it was necessary to further that lie and virtue signal their support for Smollett—including both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
But as Smollett dug deeper on the stand and lied further in front of a jury about his multilayered hoaxes, most of the nation, black and white, were sickened by the fraudster—all except BLM. One of its self-appointed heads, Dr. Melina Abdullah, the director of BLM Grassroots and cofounder of BLM Los Angeles, summed up Smollett’s trial as a “white supremacist charade.” Abdullah claimed the trial had “forced” poor Smollett to face “judges and juries operating in a system that is designed to oppress us while continuing to face a corrupt and violent police department, which has proven time and again to have no respect for our lives.”
Furthermore, BLM’s Abdullah then officially accepted the many lies of Smollett as truth only because he was half-black. Or as Abdullah further put it, “In our commitment to abolition [of the police], we can never believe police, especially the Chicago Police Department (cpd) over Jussie Smollett, a Black man who has been courageously present, visible, and vocal in the struggle for Black freedom.” Many adjectives come to mind for Smollett; “courageous” is not one. The BLM arguments rested on reductionist racial solidarity and unthinking hatred, not unlike what once had characterized the racialized Jim Crow South.
The November 2021 Kyle Rittenhouse trial had nothing to do with race. The seventeen-year-old armed Rittenhouse had shot three pursuers, two fatally, during the Kenosha rioting of August 2020. All were white. All had arrest records. All in some manner attacked or threatened to attack him. One was armed and pointed his handgun at Rittenhouse.
Given that the three pursuers were part of a mob that had sought to run after and injure Rittenhouse, a self-appointed volunteer security guard of Kenosha businesses, the jury found him innocent of all felony charges, having acted in self-defense against aggressors. No matter. Shouting, armed BLM protestors surrounded the courthouse in an effort to intimidate the jurors and proceedings inside. The racially obsessed BLM claimed on its website that the trial was once again somehow proof of anti-black racism:
We are not shocked. Today’s not-guilty verdict is expected when white supremacy lives and breathes within our institutions. It is a reminder of how our legal systems are deeply rooted in white supremacy.
It was a setup from the beginning. The police, the judge, the court, mainstream media, and every single system involved all wrapped their arms around Kyle Rittenhouse from the very beginning—from even before the murders he committed. What this verdict reminds us of is that this is a nation deeply rooted and still very committed to white supremacy, and we must continue to fight against it.
In other words, BLM cared little that the white-on-white shootings had nothing to do with race because the news cycle must always be focused on race.
BLM still further embarrassed itself in response to the Waukesha, Wisconsin, mass murder. Two days after the Rittenhouse verdict was announced, Darrell Brooks, an African American, drove his SUV deliberately into a Christmas parade, killing six whites and injuring sixty-two. Bystanders reported that Brooks zig-zagged his vehicle to run over as many of the parade participants as possible. Brooks had just been freed on bail days earlier after being charged with attempting to run down and kill his estranged girlfriend with his car. Brooks was also an apparent BLM aficionado. His social media accounts offered ample proof of advocacy of violence against whites (“So when we start bakk knokkin white people TF out ion wanna hear it . . . the old white ppl 2, knokk dem tf out!! period”).
BLM had just earlier milked the Rittenhouse trial, which had nothing to do with race, for racial relevance. Yet, the Waukesha killings did have a racially violent theme, given Brooks’s own venomous anti-white social media repertoire and the race of his targets. BLM, naturally, showed no sympathy for the six innocents killed and over sixty injured by the convicted felon Brooks. The supportive media, which is to say most mainstream media, buried the Waukesha story, in the opposite fashion of the widely reported Kenosha shootings.
Worse still, a Milwaukee BLM leader gave the game away when he seemed giddy at the possibility that the racially inspired murders of innocents might have been encouraged by the recent Rittenhouse trial verdict, and thus marked the beginning of a “revolution.” So the macabre Milwaukee BLM activist Vaun Mayes—self-described as a “Battle rapper, Community activist, Songwriter, Tattoo artist, Militant”—raced to the scene of the killings, where other BLM activists had assembled, and live-streamed a video feed: “The revolution may have started in Wisconsin.” In the aftermath of the shooting, the media, the Biden administration, and BLM activists largely ignored any commentaries about the Waukesha slaughter.
As an endnote to Waukesha, shortly after the killings, a jury (eleven whites, one black) delivered a verdict against three white defendants who had confronted in a Georgia town a man named Ahmaud Arbery, an African-American jogger. The three alleged, without proof, that Arbery had been a burglary suspect, whose lethal shooting by one of the defendants was justified when the victim resisted their supposed collective citizens’-arrest efforts.
The media and BLM supporters had earlier complained that eleven whites on a twelve-person jury substantiated their charge of two racially distinct justice systems, one exempting white suspects, the other unfairly prejudicial to blacks. In contrast, the jury, properly in the eyes of the public, found all three—including the two suspects who did not shoot Arbery—equally guilty of murder. A white judge handed down life sentences to all three.
Collate BLM’s reactions to the Smollett caper, the Kenosha trial, the Waukesha mass murdering, and the Arbery verdict, and one can understand why it has lost credibility. It predicates its commentaries only on its racial obsessions—and its ability to scare or delude donors into funding its top-heavy hierarchy. Apparently, BLM believes that it can find continued resonance among many of the left-wing black elite by voicing such fanatical views on race that the extreme voices of the latter group seem somewhat reasonable in comparison.
What, then, is the future of radical black activism as BLM loses its residual trust and legitimacy? At some point, America will again appreciate the goals and methods of the original successful non-violent civil rights movement that eschewed racial chauvinism, with its emphases instead on equal opportunity, economic empowerment, integration and assimilation, and ecumenical class concerns. Class divisions that transcend race are increasingly defining American inequality.
The time-tried agenda of the civil rights movement of the past now seems as revolutionary as BLM’s misguided, elite, and careerist activism is banal, tedious, and—predictably—failed.