The changing perceptions of BLM

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Nearly a decade ago, the Black Lives Matter movement was born, bringing people who might not always agree together in an unprecedented way to rally against injustice. Things have changed since then.

Not only have things become quieter, not everyone has the same views about BLM as they did when it started.

Seven in 10 U.S. teens say they at least somewhat support the movement, including 31 percent of teenagers who strongly support it, according to a Pew Research survey conducted in April and May among American teens ages 13 to 17. A little over half of U.S. adults (56 percent) said that they support the Black Lives Matter movement, similar to the 55 percent who said the same in 2021 and 2020. Twenty-six percent strongly support the movement, the report finds.

In the second story of the Good Conflict and the Rochester Beacon partnership, we asked dozens of residents if their views had changed since they first learned about the BLM movement. (The partnership is designed to examine whether individual beliefs and perceptions about contentious and polarizing topics can be expanded through written and video journalism and moderated discussions using the Good Conflict approach.)

Many individuals were hesitant about speaking publicly. They were worried about being misunderstood and condemned. Some thought the topic was too political and that their words could become weapons for others.

Hélène Biandudi Hofer, who co-founded Good Conflict, found that those who were willing to share their views had more questions than answers.

“The first time I heard about it was during one of those awful killings of young people and it was initially a very positive and inquisitive kind of thought about Black Lives Matter,” says Richard McCollough, a meteorologist and producer.

A Black man, aware of the Civil Rights movement, he was interested in learning more. McCollough even considered doing a piece on BLM. But the infighting within the organization—the Black Lives Matter Foundation and the movement are separate—soured that idea.

“I work in the community, I’ve been in the community all my life and there are people in the community that have conversations,” he says. “What about Black Lives Matter? What’s going on? We haven’t heard anything from them. That kind of concerns. Grassroots people want to know.”

The connection that drew McCollough to the movement became tenuous.

“They got the attention of the nation. They got the attention of the major media, they got the

attention of major corporations, they got the attention of these people, these corporations that run a lot of things. They caught the attention of the nation. So, from my perspective, ‘My gosh, look at this,’” he says.

Now, McCollough believes the opportunity has been squandered. He would like to know more about the leadership of the organization and the reasons behind a missed opportunity.

When a local demonstration blocked a road, it made Sarah, a counselor who spoke on the condition of anonymity, wonder if it was the best way to get results.

“I just remember thinking, ‘I don’t know if this is the best way to get the outcomes that you’re looking for because it’s just polarizing people,’” she says. “And that’s when I remember just there was a lot of hate speech and there was a lot of like, ‘White Lives Matter,’ or ‘All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter.’ I feel like that took away from what Black Lives Matter actually started for.”

The movement didn’t set out to create a divide, Sarah believes, but to call for fair and just ways to treat Black people. Still, she has questions.

“Money is part of it, but also how are the actions being taken actually benefiting people?” she says. “Because that’s where I’m still seeing a big divide, (it’s) people are upset, but there’s still police brutality, there’s still people of color getting assaulted, there’s a lot happening still and I don’t necessarily know if what the intention behind the movement actually has gotten through to people, more so than people are just angry.

“And I feel like now when people hear BLM, they’re like, ‘Oh. That’s a like a cult or something like that.’ People have very strong opinions about that. And you should have a strong opinion, but not because of the actions, but because of why they’re upset.”

After watching the video, you can take part in a survey here.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

5 thoughts on “The changing perceptions of BLM

  1. It would be very interesting to see the books. All the money received, where it is and where it was spent? What was the mission and has it met its expectation? Pretty basic questions, which should let the general public know if this organization met its goals or missed the mark.

    • Great idea. Can the public see the books for the slush fund Trump and his enablers set up with the stated purpose of disputing the results of the 2020 election? A fund that raked in over $250,000,000. Obviously the public needs to know about all the money received, where it is and where it was spent? What was the mission and has it met its expectation? Pretty basic questions, which should let the general public know if this organization met its goals or missed the mark.

      Reply ↓

  2. I participate at the weekly BLM Saturday silent vigils coordinated by Elders & Allies which are rotated at various traffic interesctions in the area. We do this for an hour from noon-1:00 holding signs that read simply ‘Black Lives Matter’ or ‘When Black Matter, All Lives Matter.’ Those of us participating are not formally connected with the formal BLM organization that I am aware of but are definitely supportive of the associated movement.

    In our own small way we are a visible presence for the dignity of Black Lives within the context of the entire human race. Unfortunately ‘BLM’ has to continue to be reinforced based on the enduring presence of racism in our own community let alone the world at large. The support we receive is typically via hundreds of people honking their car horns. Only rarely are there negative shoutbacks or retorts but that’s ok since it demonstrates that the messaging is striking a nerve of some individuals for whatever reason but which may give them pause for reflection later.

    The awareness provided through this simple demonstration by a dozen or so people every week is very important for people of all colors, faiths, and party affiliation to see.

    • Bingo….very well said. And I would be glad to honk my horn in support of black lives and others. There is enough hate. Hate resolves nothing, but it will double down the hatred.

  3. Humans have an innate desire to simplify. It’s either this or that. Then there is our ancient tribal instinct to stereotype and make assumptions about the “other” rooted in friend or foe and fight or flight response when confronting the unfamiliar. We continue to make the fundamental error of assuming that everyone with dark-pigmented skin is the same. A unified population that all feel and think alike. That premise is absurd as assuming that all White people are the same. I don’t know how granular we need to get when parsing any group based on superficial attributes, but it’s a fool’s errand to hold on to that assumption when dealing with any social movement.
    Despite our mastery of technology and access to vast accumulated knowledge, none of that comes into play regarding emotions. The BLM movement was an emotional response to an increased media awareness of outrageous injustice suffered mostly by specific Black men at the hands of specific White men. More often than not, those individual White men were part of the criminal justice system badly in need of change. Extensive national media coverage of community reaction, sometimes violent and destructive, drove broader public awareness to new highs, and the national mood was ripe for change. Many Americans are frustrated and disappointed with the lack of demonstrable equity for many Black citizens after decades of sincere and committed effort. It should also be noted that the Supreme Court Justices ruled that several civil rights era voting guarantees designed to protect racial minorities were no longer needed. In retrospect, it’s utterly reasonable that activists and citizens of marginalized communities and their allies were at a tipping point. BLM grew organically from a system that citizens saw as an attempt to return to some fictionalized past where Black citizens had no voice or agency.
    The not unsubstantial challenge for movements that spring up is that there are at least two barriers to success, vision and ego. The other impediment was that the movement sprung up in many places simultaneously. There wasn’t any organizational or financial infrastructure to incorporate the multiple entities.
    Communication is also a challenge. Not everyone involved can define what BLM is and what it stands for. For many, it was a call to action, while others saw it as a catchy phrase.
    President Trump characterized it as an evil, subversive movement antithetical to law and order.
    If BLM intends to continue mobilization and maintenance of inertia, it must develop a clear vision that is more universally agreed upon and then create a formal long-term leadership strategy that most supporters can follow up on. It is common for entities in their infancy to waste money and operate in chaos while finding their “sea legs.” In the end, the BLM movement will be judged on what it achieves from now on.

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