An argument has erupted over the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement, after they decided to make an upcoming meeting a “black only space”. The group has since clarified that in fact, all their meetings are black centered and that white people aren’t welcome. I have a few thoughts on this.
First of all, I totally get why black Americans might be really suspicious, perhaps even hostile or fearful, regarding white Americans. I mean, let’s face it, it’s hard to look at recent news headlines and not conclude that white people suck, particularly white men.
I’m also aware that too many white people have a tendency to turn up and make every conversation be about them, and it’s definitely tedious to have to deal with white fragility when trying to have a productive conversation.
So with all that being the case, I totally support BLM Philadelphia’s desire to make their meetings “black only” if that’s what they want to do. (Not that they need my permission or blessing, of course, but for the record.)
However, it seems to me that tactically it’s a bad move.
First of all, it gives ammo to the right-wing talking point that Black Lives Matter is a racist movement, or even a hate group that’s comparable to the KKK. Sure enough, the right wing media are gleefully reporting this latest outrage and describing it as an endorsement of segregation. I’m sure it will appear as an anecdote in many future articles and presentations.
Secondly, surely the Black Lives Matter movement would like to have white people present at protests? Plenty of people noticed the remarkably easygoing police presence at the women’s march. Wouldn’t it be good if Black Lives Matter rallies had a bunch of white women standing at the front, so police would be hesitant to break things up by force and carry out mass arrests?
There is one strategic argument in favor of black-only meetings that I can think of: it might help to avoid James O’Keefe style edited “sting” recordings. However, I suspect that outlets like “Project Veritas” and Breitbart can find willing black accomplices.
So, am I missing something, or are feelings — whether justified or not — being prioritized over sound strategy?
How about if white people were allowed to attend if sponsored by a black person? That way you would be able to avoid problem attendees without requiring racial segregation. Perhaps a code of conduct could also be written up, setting expectations, to head off the problem of white fragility.