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A strategic blunder for “Black Lives Matter” demonstrators

Melvin B. Miller
A strategic blunder for “Black Lives Matter” demonstrators
“Senator Sanders should just do his thing. It’s all good.” (Photo: Dan Drew)

Vermont is a beautiful, bucolic New England state that never has attracted a substantial black population to settle there. Only 1.2 percent of the state’s residents are black. Fortunately, Vermont has a feisty U.S. senator, Bernie Sanders, who is a champion for economic issues of great importance to blacks as well as working-class whites. But that is not enough for some “Black Lives Matter” demonstrators. In a strategic error, they forced Sanders from the stage when delivering a speech in his campaign for President.

While Sanders has always supported racial justice issues, he has not been a leader on those matters. However, he is regarded as the senatorial patron saint of Social Security and a leader of the movement to end income and wealth inequality. He is in the forefront of the battle for a living wage, an affordable college education, and a national commitment to provide health care for all. For the first time in recent political history, huge crowds are turning out in support of Sanders’ platform.

Perhaps the chickens are coming home to roost. Many citizens with modest income were deceived into believing that Obamacare would be harmful, but it is working. Now the failure of wages to rise as the economy grows has dumped many workers from the middle class. These people are coming out to listen to Sanders.

You don’t need political expertise to understand that coalitions develop when the voters coalesce on relevant issues. Coalitions fray with the introduction of disparate matters. According to a July 2015 Associated Press poll, there could not be a greater difference of opinion between blacks and whites on whether police violence is a serious problem in the U.S. While 73 percent of blacks think so, only 20 percent of whites agree.

Sophisticated blacks are apprehensive about any disruption to Sanders’ campaign of economic populism by “Black Lives Matter” protesters. Support for Hillary Clinton in the election should not require the destruction of Sanders’ drive for economic populism. It is critical for political activists to analyze situations to determine which strategies are more productive.

It is good to learn from the past so that mistakes are not repeated. Racial persecution is rife with occasions for emotional reaction to abuse. Black men in America feel endangered by police aggression as well as the neighborhood violence that results from youthful reaction to racial discrimination. Nonetheless it is necessary to maintain a cooly analytical approach to strategies for successful progress, lest it be derailed.

President Lyndon B. Johnson gave the most far-reaching speech on equal justice at Howard University on June 4, 1965. He stated that freedom is not enough and equal opportunity is not enough. There is, Johnson claimed, an obligation “to fulfill these rights.” His approach was to restore the strength of the family because “the family is the cornerstone of society.”

The research for these changes was “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” Unfortunately, proposed remedial action failed when black leaders attacked the report because it contained what was considered to be a high rate of out-of-wedlock births for that time. The goal of establishing family allowances similar to those in Europe became politically untenable. Blacks were left with oppressive welfare that required the absence of the father, and the black family suffered.

Sanders’ plank will benefit blacks. Attacks on Sanders by protesters from “Black Lives Matter” are not helpful.