Politics & Race
How They Killed Black Lives Matter

I remember when it happened.

It was late on a Saturday night, and a group of mostly Black men had gathered after spilling their blood sweat and tears towards one noble cause. Their valiant leader gathered them  in a circle and spoke to them for a few moments. He knew it was the last time he’d see them, and the men were filled with a mixture of gratitude and sorrow. He knew they were sad. After leading men like this for thirty years, he shared with them something that was once so black, youthful and underground. Lesser leaders than him had done it, but this time was different.

His name was Franklin Mitchell Beamer. He was the coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies football team. He was 69 years old and he had just done “the Dab dance.” It was dead now. For good.

Sometimes the only thing needed to kill a movement is to render it impotent. Toothless. The subversive, artistic attitude of Jazz transformed itself into the sanguine sounds of Kenny G. The underground ghetto expression  of Hip hop is now the count-on-beat whiteness of Macklemore and the Step-n-Fetchit coonery of Young Thug. The shut-shit-down, frustration of Black Lives Matter that countered the respectability of the Civil Rights movement became annoying attention whores throwing tantrums at Bernie Sanders rallies.

Let’s be clear–this is not what the movement for Black Lives really is. Instead, this is how Black Lives Matter has been painted. It hasn’t even been portrayed as a movement. To mainstream America Black Lives Matter is an organization. It is the umbrella for all the angry Blacks mad about police killings, or neighborhood watch killings, or county jail cell trashbag hangings or… something. They really don’t know what it exactly is. And that is how they killed it. Black lives will always matter, but #BlackLivesMatter is dead.

I know you wondering who the “they” is that killed BLM, and I know you’re expecting me to say “White people.”


White people didn’t kill Black Lives Matter, but Black Lives Matter was killed for White people.

Black Lives Matter was killed by the white people who responded with “All Lives Matter.”
Black Lives Matter was killed by the Black people who angrily and inarticulately responded to the White people saying “All Lives Matter.”
Black Lives Matter was killed by conservative Whites asking, “Well what about Black-On-Black crime?”
Black Lives Matter was killed by respectability-seeking Black people asking “Well what about Black On Black crime?
Black Lives Matter was killed by directionless irritants interrupting politicians, and when given the microphone and asked what they want, responding with, “ummm….”
Black Lives Matter was killed by directionless irritants thinking politicians would, or could have the answers for Black people.
Black Lives Matter was killed by catered meetings  and t-shirts and dues and Sunday afternoon meetings and hoteps wearing daishikis and Jordans.
Black Lives Matter was killed by leaders throwing shade on twitter about using the hashtag or name.
Black Lives Matter was killed by panderers painting themselves superhero in puffy vest coordinated costumes.
Black Lives Matter was killed by people describing themselves as “artivists” or “activist” or “hashtagtivist” but really meaning “the candidate running for ___”

Black Lives Matter has become like terrorists now. A person who kills 12 people with a gun is a mass shooter, unless they have a Koran and made a Facebook post about Allah. Then we call them terrorists, because they must have ties with ISIS, right? This is the same narrative that is being written for Black Lives Matter.  There were no protestors or individual Black people trying to change society. We were suddenly all “Black Lives Matter” people. First it was scary. “Black Lives Matter people riot, don’t they? Didn’t I see photos of them looting liquor stores in Ferguson? Didn’t they torch a CVS in Baltimore?” They say often enough for white America to fear it. Then they keep saying it, and affiliating people with it until it is drained of both bark and bite. Now suburban white kids want to join ISIS and any Black person  who raises their voice above a whisper to speak on the mistreatment of Blacks is described as a “Black Lives Matter Activist.”

Like when a woman hatched an ingenious plan, paid $500 to get into a  Hillary  Clinton fundraiser and raised awareness by confronting Hillary Clinton about her past disregard for Black Lives. Ashley Williams did that, but news outlets called her a “Black Lives Matter Activist.

Like when I was in Ferguson with people from around the world with no common affiliation to protest the lynching of Mike Brown and people called it a “Black Lives Matter protest.”

Like when Baltimore police tried to detain buses filled with young people trying to get home from school and the mall,tred to suppress a march and  started an uprising, they called it a “Black Lives Matter” riot.

Now they are numb to it. It has returned to from whence it came: A toothless hashtag. They never brought back our girls. There was no Justice for Trayvon. I still can’t breathe.

I have never been affiliated with any civil rights group or organization, although I think they play valuable roles. A few days ago I was interviewed by a TV station, along with people from Rock The Vote, the NAACP and other organizations. They knew I often find myself in the mix during periods of racial unrest, so they introduced me as a “Black Lives Matter activist,” but I interrupted them before they finished.

“No. I’m just a man. I’m a Black Man. I’m not a Black Lives Matter activist.

I’m just Black. Just Black…”

Then I Dabbed on’em.

About the author

Michael Harriot is a renowned spoken word poet, the host of The Black One podcast and the editor-in-chief of NegusWhoRead. He is perpetually just getting warmed up because he has no chill. He is on Instagram and twitter as @michaelharriot

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