Home Social Justice Featured Blog: BlackLivesMatter won’t endorse candidate, why does that matter?

Featured Blog: BlackLivesMatter won’t endorse candidate, why does that matter?

8 min read

Who among us is surprised that #BlackLivesMatter is refusing to endorse a political candidate? The movement, which originated as a concept and has been referred to as “not a moment, but a movement,” has since developed into measurable advocacy and now has enough legitimacy to call for and receive consideration when it comes to policy.

The creation of #BlackLivesMatter by Alicia Garcia, Patrisse Cullars and Opal Tometi in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s shooting created a stir on social media, but it wasn’t until the shooting of Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent reaction that BLM really took off to become the movement emerging right now.

From that movement has sprung a rallying cry for black lives. It’s from the bottom up at its very core. Though not all #BlackLivesMatter calls to action are the same, the sheer power of the voices speaking up for substantive change is impressive. And it’s indicative of how grassroots movements are a powerful way to enact substantive changes to dialogue about systems and institutions and can lead to big-time policy change.

While some within the movement are opposed to “reformist reform,” there have been direct calls for changes that could be enacted now related to a variety of issues. Currently, the dominant issue is  policing reform. Campaign Zero is possibly the most comprehensive but simply-stated policy platform that is a direct call to action for citizens and politicians alike to bring up. It has been put together by BLM activists like DeRay Mckesson, Brittany Packyetti, Johnetta Elzie and Samuel Sinyangwe, though they seek help from others.

Presidential candidates like Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump are profiled on the Campaign Zero website to highlight their stances and ideas as they pertain to policing and law enforcement.

Going in a different direction politically, if one were to examine the impact the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street movement had on American politics, it’s easy to see just how much grassroots organizing can push the conversation, which will lead politicians to change their rhetoric. With the Tea Party, there was a strong push for balancing budgets, all-around fiscal responsibility, increased emphasis on Judeo-Christian values, anti-undocumented immigrant rhetoric and more. This was best demonstrated at the local level and with a strong push in rural areas to bring far-right conservatives into office, including into the House of Representatives.

The Occupy Movement, on the other hand, resulted in growing discussions against the top wage earners in the country and anti-big business or Wall Street sentiment. It helped create new leftist solidarity that included organization and activism against big, pro-business leaders and politicians alike.

Neither of these movements spawned from electing new leaders. Neither was a top-down approach to political change.

Power continually proves itself to be derived from the constituencies that call for it or enable it to develop. To claim that those in Washington, D.C. are the only ones at fault in some type of oligarchical dystopia ignores the fact that power is derived from the people who enable the policy that exists today.

So for one group with growing influence to say “we don’t want any leader, what we want is bottom-up change,” is consistent with political power demonstrated by grassroots movements across American history, and it’s easy to see blatant examples in recent years.

Black Lives Matter does not need to endorse anyone for the presidency in 2016. That much is apparent. For all the Bernie Berners who claim that black people need to vote in their best interests with Sanders, even if that were the case, no one is indebted to Sanders just because he was a Civil Rights activist. More than anything, Black Lives Matter will continue to organize, gain support and apply pressure to politicians in office and probably create an environment where different types of leaders emerge.

It will be the collective voice of citizens that will continue to enact change on a political scale. Projecting all of your political expectations onto one politician because they’re “the best available option” isn’t a bad thing to do, but it sure doesn’t end there when it comes to systemic political change.

Here are some relevant pieces of media about #BlackLivesMatter and grassroots organizing and activism. This is an Atlantic-heavy section this week. Just a heads up.


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