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Letter 4: But what about BLM?

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Dear White America,

A while back, I received an email from a peer who was concerned about Black Lives Matter. There seems to be a fair amount of misunderstanding of BLM, so I wanted to shed some light on a few important (and frequently questioned) topics:


Rumor/Misinterpretation: "BLM is a fundraiser not for black lives and black communities, but for Democrats. The Black Lives Matter donations button goes directly to, and all of the donations go directly to ActBlue, a 501(c)(3) organization which is a nonprofit organization that only funds Democrats and have a plethora of famous partisan megadonors as well as over ten million small donors."

Truth/Facts: It are 100% correct that the “Donate” link on the BLM website takes you to a donation page hosted by ActBlue. However, where you select the amount to donate, there is text that reads, “Your contribution will benefit Black Lives Matter Global Network.”

  1. The “Black Lives Matter Global Network” is, according to the About section, a US nonprofit global organization active in the US, UK, and Canada that has raised a $6.5 million fund to support grassroots organizing work. The About section continues, stating: “#BlacklivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by state and vigilantes. By combatting and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.”

  2. ActBlue does not only fund Democrats, as you proposed; I feel like this may be a common misconception. According to their website, “[a]s a nonprofit, we’re driven by the belief that our democracy works better when more people participate in civic life and when our campaigns and nonprofits are powered by the people they serve. That’s why we’ve built a powerful online fundraising platform for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, progressive organizations, and nonprofits (emphasis added). Our tools make it possible for anyone to build a grassroots campaign or movement and give donors an easy and secure way to support their favorite candidates and causes.”

  3. The Black Lives Matter Global Network is both a progressive organization and a nonprofit. Therefore, their use of ActBlue as a fundraising platform fits ActBlue’s mission, without being a Democratic candidate. (I just recently learned this about ActBlue, too, by the way.)


Rumor/Misinterpretation: "BLM does not hide the fact that is has a political viewpoint. BLM's website, particularly the "What We Believe" section espouses entirely political statements, many of which have nothing to do with police brutality. The language on the site alone is indistinguishable from that of the left-wing, neo-Marxist talking points, including but certainly not limited to: disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure, modern patriarchy, multiple references to gender theory, animosity to "heteronormativity," and the usage of the word "comrade" more than once, a term commonly used with socialist/Marxist groups worldwide. Additionally, the Black Lives Matter founders are Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza.  Openly during an interview in 2015, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza stated that the movement has an ideological frame. Here is an exact quote from Cullors: "The first thing, I think, is that we actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia in particular are trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on, sort of, ideological theories. And I think that what we really tried to do is build a movement that could be utilized by many, many, black folk." In 2018, Cullors continued that rhetoric in her book, "When They Call you a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir." The book mentions multiple extremist views and even expressed admiration for the US Communist Party. "

Truth/Facts: Yes, BLM does encompass more than police brutality. And rightfully so! Addressing police brutality is only one aspect of fighting for racial justice. I’d push back on the label of “left-wing, neo-Marxist” to describe the racial justice topics of “disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure, modern patriarchy, gender theory, [and] heteronormativity.” These are all constructs that negatively affect people of color, especially POC who are womxn and who identify as LGBTQIA. Therefore, while these aspects of the BLM mission may push against what we’ve normalized in our current societal structure, it does more harm than good to ascribe these ideas to a political wing or political part, since they affect us all regardless of political affiliation.

  1. Disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure: We actually discussed the negative legal implications of a nuclear family structure in my Family Law course this past spring. By only acknowledging a father-mother-children set up, that bars single-parent families and families where the grandparents or aunts/uncles are the primary caregivers from receiving similar protections. This carries particularly weighty repercussions when it comes to health care and education, in terms of legal guardianship and who is legally able to do what for the child, regardless of the child’s best interests.  

  2. Modern patriarchy/Gender theory/Heteronormativity: These three topics are very closely linked. And quite frankly, they also play into the concepts of the nuclear family. Gender, like race, is a social construct, but it is so deeply engrained in our culture that it is an unavoidable part of our identities. There are still more men than women in “positions of power.” There are still more straight people than LGBTQ+ people in elected office. Due to this reality, straight men are still the ones holding the most law-making power. The female voice and the queer voice are therefore not proportionately heard, in the same way that Black voices are not proportionately heard. This necessarily affects our political and social landscapes, when the population is not accurately portrayed in the optics and actions of its representatives. Breaking down this power structure requires that those who have a platform speak up for those who do not have such a platform, because systemic change must occur from within.


Rumor/Misunderstanding: "BLM has little-to-no problem with political violence. This is evidenced by the BLM movement's failure to effectively address, or often even mention opposition to violence during or after BLM events.  Mainstream news stations that support BLM (and its narratives) justified the recent weeks of violence and crime. The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially towards civilians for political aims is the definition of terrorism."

Truth/Facts: I’m not sure how involved you are with the BLM-organized protests where you live, but in the cities whose protests I have been following and been involved with, the BLM organizers have always spoken out against violence. It is part of the pre-protest event rules. When violence has occurred, it has not been at the directive of BLM organizers; BLM organizers publicly dissent against protests devolving into riots. The last sentence you used – “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially towards civilians for political aims is the definition of terrorism” – I want to caution application of this phrase to BLM protestors, as I have seen more of and read more about this terroristic behavior coming from the police response than from any rogue protestor. Amnesty International has even declared a humanitarian crisis in light of the way police forces have reacted to BLM protests. So yes, while there have been protests that have devolved into violent rioting, what you describe as “political violence” (which I would just describe as “violence”) is not and never has been part of the BLM mission or ideology.


Rumor/Misunderstanding: "It is important to note that many people who say black lives matter and purport to support Black Lives Matter probably do not know nor agree with the ideology of the group, but do support the narratives. Due to these examples, Black Lives Matter is an extremely political and divisive group, and it should not be demanded that the administration announce support/nonsupport for this group. [Schools are], and should only be focused on providing a quality legal education."

Truth: I respect that “comrade” can come across as loaded, and I respect that Marx is not everyone’s favorite political theorist; both have become quite entwined with the USSR at this point! I do like to gain a rudimentary understanding of a variety of theories, though, since we have yet as a human race to come up with a system that is actually just and equitable. While communism hasn’t worked in the past, I think it’s safe to say that capitalism has its own issues, too!

I agree that universities should be focused on providing a quality education! Directly to that point, our school is very aware that providing a quality education includes instruction and discussion on implicit bias and the effects of these biases on personal and professional success. Part of becoming an effective advocate is grappling with the uncomfortable and difficult topics of racism and white supremacy being woven into our legal landscape, and the effect that this reality has on our clients. It is really all part of our legal education, and our administration is actively working on making sure that [university] graduates are provided with a curriculum that fosters anti-racist thought and action.

Based on this different perspective on BLM, I leave you with this challenge: to view what you originally took as a divisive message as, instead, a needed shaking of the status quo that involves necessary discomfort on the individual level to attain wide-spread change and justice.



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