The Daily Outrage

The CCR blog

Black People Have Articulated What They Are “For.” So Now What?

The cancellation of a Black Lives Matter benefit concert Sunday because the Movement for Black Lives platform “accuses Israel of genocide and endorses a range of boycott and sanction actions” is the latest development in the month-long uproar about the platform’s inclusion of Palestinian solidarity. The single paragraph, which is one of 12 in the “Invest-Divest” section that comprehensively addresses U.S. military spending and its global consequences, lays out the connection between U.S. military aid to Israel and the disinvestment in urgently needed domestic education and social programs.

The section lays out the foundational point that we spend more on our military annually than we do on education, health care, housing, Social Security, and unemployment combined. Since budgets are an expression of our values, the platform calls for a reprioritization and reapportionment of our resources to align with the goal of repairing the harms that have been done to Black communities. As such, it presents a clear solution to a long-standing problem.

That a few sentences could divert the discussion from the broad, transformational possibilities the platform proposes to a focus on the nature of human rights abuses of the Israeli occupation of Palestine sadly speaks more to the peculiar nature of American politics on Israel than to the value of articulations in the platform. This is particularly true given that the platform critically references U.S. support for human rights abuses in the Dominican Republic, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Honduras, among other countries, in addition to Israel. There has been, and continues to be, a vibrant and long-standing discussion within the human rights community about whether Israel’s policies towards the Palestinian people could constitute a form of genocide, and the Movement for Black Lives is far from the first entity to take the position that it does.

Unfortunately, a staple of that important discussion is the widespread and systemic attempt to silence criticism of Israeli human rights abuses, one CCR and its partners at Palestine Legal documented last year in our report The Palestine Exception to Free Speech. (Indeed, another example of this phenomenon is playing out right new in the New York City Council, where an anti-BDS resolution is being considered.)

But I fear the reluctance to engage the platform as a whole also speaks to an even deeper political phenomenon, the difficulty for many white people of moving beyond their own discomfort (and not make that discomfort the subject of the conversation) to really listen to Black-articulated explication of the experience and problems of Black people. To genuinely take in an analysis of the structural impediments to meaningful Black existence. To comprehend the depth and breadth of white supremacism. And to seriously consider the solutions.

Part of what makes the platform so exhilarating is its refusal to limit its vision to ideas and policies considered politically “feasible” in our current political climate. It clearly lists, unpacks, and documents the impediments to full Black humanity in the United States. It does so with a 360-degree view that considers relevant policy areas from mass incarceration to health care to fossil fuels to tax policy, and plainly names patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy as fundamental systemic problems.

Moreover, the breadth of its vision is matched by depth: specific policy proposals at the federal, state, and local level, model legislation, lists of resources and organizations working on each individual issue.

The Movement for Black Lives platform is a comprehensive policy document framed in compelling political narrative. It offers solutions to many of our nation’s most vexing problems, and should rightly be the subject of discussion across the country in legislatures, town halls, think tanks, and on the Sunday morning talk shows. The breadth of the policy recommendations – which touch on everything from climate justice and the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act to public financing of elections and net neutrality – is inextricably intertwined with the intersectionality of the platform.

The platform is grounded in a convincing commitment to our interconnectedness. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny,” as Dr. King put it long before the word “intersectional” came along. It does more than catalog solidarities we ought to have. It demonstrates a deep understanding of the genuine solidarities we do have. It asks, in every section, “How does this solution address the specific needs of some of the most marginalized Black people?”

Feminism is not incidental or tangential to the platform; it is integral. So is LGBTQI inclusion. Further, the platform states, “[t]here can be no liberation for all Black people if we do not center and fight for those who have been marginalized.” In this regard, expressing solidarity with Haitians subject to forced deportations, the Garifuna people subject to forced migration, and Palestinians living under occupation is appropriate to the vision.

This is what the future looks like. Our communities are intertwined. Our struggles are interconnected. Our visions of liberation dare not be limited by the boundaries of our own social locations or concessions to the practical.

The question is, are we ready to take this vision seriously enough to pursue it? Will we take leadership from the 50 Black-led organizations that researched and developed this platform and let it inform our dreams, our actions, and our future?

Last modified 

September 14, 2016