Black Lives Matter and the 2016 General Election

The intersection of voting & activism

What's Going On? | Marie Flake | October 27, 2015

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The Black Lives Matter movement has become stale. For many of us that are pro-Black Lives Matter, every article is the same: the tiring re-iteration of the same rhetoric. By all appearances protests seem to have dwindled along with the fiery passion of the movement. In spite of its lag, the movement is still crucial to the well-being of Black Americans, especially with respect to our human rights. So much so, that President Obama made a point to speak to police officers on why Black lives do in fact, matter. He also designated the “reverse racism” characterization of the movement as an “old trap” that derails the conversation. President Obama is right; these sort of digressions do nothing but take away from and delegitimize the movement. The support from the POTUS of this grass-roots-gone-national movement is heartening, though what do the  presidential candidates have to say about this movement?
The movement has evolved far beyond its police brutality roots, it now includes general welfare and economic justice. With more at stake,said evolution has only made the Black Lives Matter movement more pertinent. While Republicans have generally avoided the discussion, Democratic candidates have been more open to the idea of the Black Lives Matter movement, more specifically Bernie Sanders. Said openness was not given easily; activists interrupted Sanders’s not once but twice in Seattle during the summer of 2015. At the time the news coverage of activists’ interruptions were mostly cringe-worthy. In hindsight however, the protests were a great success.  Not long after their protests,  Sanders posted a new racial justice platform to his site. Moreover, when DeRay, a nationally recognized activist, pointed out a few discrepancies after the fact, Sanders was more than willing to meet.

Sanders’s willingness to discuss these issues is nothing to bat an eye at. For many Black Americans, we feel the constant need from people outside of the Black community to prove that our race is the basis of our inequality.

The issue at hand has never been whether or not Black people have valid grievances against police brutality, but whether we were going to get a president that not only cared, but could do something about it. President Obama has called for reform of the criminal justice system as a whole, with respect to police brutality. Despite his efforts, there have not been many strides towards an overhaul of said system. Some hope that Sanders could be to President Obama what LBJ was to JFK.

 “The issue at hand has never been whether or not Black people have valid grievances against police brutality.”

 

While national politics are important, local politics are even more so. So much so that the majority of important decisions are made at the local level. One of these important decision-makers is the mayor, who is elected. In cities such as Ferguson whose last mayoral election had a voter turnout of 12%, this could be a game-changer if people simply voted more. The racial-tension and social unrest could potentially be remedied by first voting for those who have the city and their people’s best interest at heart.

No matter how alluring the idea may be, Sanders is not the BLM messiah. Sanders is the POTUS hopeful for many young, liberal Americans but he is only human and can only do so much. Our power extends far beyond the election of the president, and we have the constitutional right to exert said power locally. We just have to get out and use our local vote in conjunction with our activism.