#BlackLivesMatter’s ambivalence toward straight Black Men

#BlackLivesMatter is a movement that continues to make the headlines, years after it first emerged following the killing of Trayvon Martin by the George Zimmerman in 2012. Looking closely at the official #BlackLivesMatter website, you find that its founders have a very distinct set of ideas regarding gender and sexuality which seek to push heterosexual, ‘cis’ gendered males to the sidelines. Far from being concerned with all black lives, the #BlackLivesMatter originators appear to be mainly concerned with those Black lives which they feel have been marginalised by Black straight men.

The official Black Lives Matter crew has an ambivalent attitude toward straight black men
The official Black Lives Matter crew has an ambivalent attitude toward straight black men

The ‘About’ section of the official website of #BlackLivesMatter says the following:

“It goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within Black communities, which merely call on Black people to love Black, live Black and buy Black, keeping straight cis Black men in the front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at all.
Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.” 

The ironic thing is that the issues which have brought #BlackLivesMatter movement to public attention are issues which overwhelmingly impact Black males. Straight Black males at that. For example, when it comes to extra-judicial killings by the police in the US, men (and especially Black men) are by far the biggest victims.

On their website, BLM also draws attention to the issue of people being locked up in prisons. They have the following two claims:

2.8 million Black people are locked in cages in this country is state violence.”

1 million Black people are locked in cages in this country–one half of all people in prisons or jails–is an act of state violence.”

The inconsistency in the figures is a common facet of campaign advocacy of this kind. Putting that aside, the naked fact is that black men are much much more likely to be imprisoned than black women. In fact, white men are more likely to end up in jail than black women! The #BlackLivesMatter website actually hides the clear gender dynamic here because they are ideologically committed to pushing male heterosexuals to the sidelines.

The overwhelming majority of black prisoners are male.
The overwhelming majority of black prisoners are male.

Now it seems that the #BlackLivesMatter movement has transcended the vision of its original founders, a fact which they rail against on their website. With this in mind, it is only right to point out that perhaps the majority of activists who mobilise under the #BlackLivesMatter banner (and who share memes on social media using the hashtag) probably understand it to be about Black lives generally. But if the movement were to stay true to the ideology of its founders, it should probably be called BlackFemaleQueerTransLivesMatter. Obviously that would never have caught on!