Activism | October 14th, 2020

Is Black Lives Matter the Effective Strategy to a Solution?

By: Jaelyn Guyton
Is Black Lives Matter the Effective Strategy to a Solution?

In this op-ed, Florida A&M University junior Jaelyn Guyton discusses the effective and ineffectual spectrums of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In the military, the rules of engagement are set laws that we are governed by, for fear of prosecution, followed by harsh punishments. Similarly, as Black people, we are governed by set rules when engaging with our white counterparts. We can all recall how old we were when we had the first epiphany that our life might’ve not mattered to some as it should. It would have been at a young age when I was first introduced to the rules of engagement when it came to white society. 

For my great-grandmother, she was just a little girl in Jacksonville, Fla., going to the library with her dad when a white woman pulled at her skirt and said “N*****, why are you holding that white man’s hand.”  As a child, she didn’t know how to respond to a question like that, given that the man she was walking with was her father. For my grandmother, it was when she won an essay contest. When called to read this award-winning essay, the white audience there had vanished as she took her first step to the podium. For me it was 2015, when I was told by another student jokingly, “Aren’t the n****** supposed to be in the back?”— something I carried for the rest of my life.

Concurrently, the civil rights movement of my grandparents’ day and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, was created just for that reason. Its creation gave validity to our constant struggles of following the guidelines of our set “rules of engagement” and in turn, having officers mistreat us with impunity. 

Since the revamping of this new age civil rights movement, we have seen through the media a daily barrage of police brutality and social injustices. Our most recent case was a video from Jacob Blake, a Black man shot in the back several times by the local police. Before this incident, much of the movement’s influence and presence had died down. Such is the nature of the world; our attention spans are short and are only focused on what’s new and trending.

Consequently, BLM is now following the same trend as our politics where anytime we have a presidential election, people begin to have a vested interest in issues. However, these conversations don’t last much after election day. The civil rights movement of our grandparent’s time was more influential as an apolitical force and made lasting impacts. 

These feats included the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibited discrimination on the federal and state level, as well as local places. The  Voting Rights Act of 1965 secured the right to vote for every American along with the 24th amendment — ratified a year earlier — that essentially eliminated any tax on individuals carrying out their civic responsibility to vote. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 eliminated discrimination in housing and gave fair housing to those seeking employment in the city. Lyndon B. Johnson’s great society campaign, the war on poverty and so much more were part of this push in making America a fair and just place. We had not been to that mountain top, but we were closer than where we began.

The concern now though is how hollowed the BLM movement seems. As someone that has participated in these protests, my hope was to see the importance of being heard and making actual change. A slither of good news is that the voter turnout in Florida went up by 1  percent, about a million voters, since the last primary election. This comes as the Tallahassee Democrat reports “2.3 million vote-by-mail ballots submitted, which represented about 59% of all votes cast,” and with such good news, I should be filled with joy, however, the politicians that are up for election don’t exactly have our best interest. 

Most are moderates who help give rise to the neo-fascists either because they pandered too much to fringe voters. On the other side, they are so hyper-focused on the wrong set of identity politics that they did nothing to fix the impending economic stagnation of wages and high inflation. All of this resulting in white rage and our current politics today. Now more than ever, we need innovative progressive ideas that can cure our problems.

BLM and those that organized it only seemed to get lost in the polarization and where they could be sending in proposals to DC or state capitols, they have no foundation to do so. These flaws are glaring every time someone or a big corporation donates to the organization and can never pinpoint where exactly the resources are being funneled. With no structure or organization, this movement just feels like a lot of shouting into the void with no direction.

Until there is a radical movement set on breaking these systemic barriers, I guess I will just have to settle for my offspring to try and navigate the same situations that I and my family have had to circumvent. Such are the rules of engagement for blacks in America, with the hopes that we all make it home at night.