‘Black Lives Matter’—a Year From Now

In the post-civil rights era of the last half-century, a number of black triumphalist slogans and movements have come and gone.

“Black is beautiful” was an informal self-help attitude that sought to encourage blacks not to emulate so-called arbitrary constructs of white majority aesthetics, but instead to rediscover a natural black essence -- from Afros to Ebonics and Kwanzaa -- that need not be discouraged.

“Black power!” was a more assertive, political, and collective strain of “black pride.” It  unfortunately descended from legitimate efforts to organize blacks collectively into an effective political force (e.g., the resulting “black caucus” in Congress) and finally into the violence and incoherence of the Black Panthers and other nihilistic violent groups, whose chauvinism was fueled by their own versions of abject racism. It too is now forgotten.

In the 1990s came a more informal angst characterized by the slogan “It’s a black thing. You wouldn’t understand.” This fad sought, in in-your-face style, to remind non-black America, but especially its white majority, that there was an exceptionalism in African-American popular culture that could never really be emulated or adopted in any genuine manner by non-African American wannabes -- much less co-opted by naïve do-gooders or conniving profiteers.  It was a separatist idea that assumed society’s reciprocal standard did not apply to itself.

Now there comes “Black Lives Matter,” a movement that argues that reckless law enforcement habitually shoots and kills black suspects in disproportionate fashion and due to racist motives -- a crime spree that is supposedly empowered by the general neglect of the white population.

But like all the other past racially chauvinistic movements, “Black Lives Matter” will fail to convince anyone outside a small subset of African-American urban youth to embrace its ideology and advocacy. A year from now it will become another artifact like “It’s a black thing.” It was, after all, the logical denouement to Rev. Wright and the Obamas’ “get in their face,” “punish our enemies,” “typical white person,” “clingers,” “downright mean country,” “never been proud before,” “stereotyping police,” Travyon as the son Obama never had, and the assorted “you didn’t build that,” “not the time to profit,” and lectures about knowing when to quit making money. At some point whining causes weariness.

There are many reasons why Black Lives Matter will be gone within a year.

1)      Racial chauvinism

Of course, given the history of slavery and Jim Crow, many in the black community are naturally suspicious of the white majority, in a way that even other often exploited and discriminated-against groups -- Native Americans, the Irish, Jews, Mexican-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Chinese, Italians -- are not. The subtext, then, of all of these slogans and groups was that the tragic history of blacks in America still exempts them from the normal parlance and protocols of both other minority groups and the white majority: we rarely hear “Jews are beautiful,” “Brown Lives Matter,” “It’s a white thing. You just don’t understand.”