The Heteropatriarchal Anti-Generational Pile-on of the Black Lives Matter Movement

by Tawana Honeycomb Petty

Black Lives Matter, much like the song cry Black Power of the 1960s, has swept through the imaginations of Black people longing to be free from oppression in America.

The liberation motto, which began as a hashtag, and has since developed into an organized movement against structural racism, was founded by three Black women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. Its origins began in response to the brutal killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2013 and evolved as the police and vigilante killings of unarmed Blacks escalated in the United States.  Unfortunately, because Black Lives Matter was founded by Black women, it has been the subject of a proverbial pile-on of elder, macho criticism.

From the constant barrage of Facebook statuses, to Twitter posts, articles, blogs and interviews, many of the strongest criticizers of Black Lives Matter, are older men, mostly Black. From the refusal to acknowledge Black Lives Matter as an organization, to the failure to acknowledge Alicia, Patrisse and Opal’s contribution to the escalation of resistance in this movement moment in history, many elder Black radicals have forgotten who the true target is and aimed their targets at these three women. I call misogyny.

For the past year, since the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, I have found myself in hundreds of debates around these non-constructive attacks on these Black women. I am cognizant of the fact that by identifying these as attacks on women, and calling this misogyny, that I open myself up to these attacks as well. However, I felt compelled to speak-out. I am reminded of Ancestor Audre Lorde's quote, "your silence will not protect you."

Many of the men who have chosen to blog, speak-out or post statuses on social media about Black Lives Matter have spent very little time, if any, even attempting to engage the organizers directly.  This is problematic, yet typical.

Historically, Black women’s visions have been stomped on in the struggle for liberation in this country. Their work has been co-opted, their intellectual property stolen and their voices made invisible behind the banner of Black male leadership. It is unfortunate that these types of assaults continue in the movement today.

Although Black Lives Matter is an official organization with a national chapter and subsequent chapters all across the globe now, many men won't even acknowledge it's significance. This isn't an argument about ideology, it's a refusal to give Black women their just due.

Many Black men are afforded the opportunity to form organizations, collectives, foundations, and moments of struggle under the banner of revolutionary or activist, with little to no analysis or critique from their peers or followers. This too is problematic, yet typical.

I agree that political education needs to be an instrumental part of our movement for liberation. I agree that we sharpen each other when we struggle through ideological differences. I agree that we must hold each other accountable in this work for our collective freedom.  However, it is my hope that before more of these “set those girls straight,” criticizers post their next blog, stat or interview on Black Lives Matter, that they at least consider becoming part of the solution.