Mistaken about Black Lives Matter

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These letters are in response to George Coates Jr.’s Support for Black Lives Matter has put two local institutions at odds with actions and obligations” in last week’s issue.

I found myself somewhat confused when I read the article entitled “Support for Black Lives Matter has put two local institutions at odds with actions and obligations” in last week’s Chestnut Hill Local. The writer states that “Black Lives Matters condones the destruction of property as a legitimate form of protest and a redeemable repayment of reparations” after quoting Ariel Atkin’s statement that “I don’t care if someone decides to loot a Gucci or a Macy’s or a Nike store, because that makes sure that person eats… That is reparations, anything they wanted to take, they can take it because these businesses have insurance.”

This remark of Ms. Atkins, a BLM organizer, taken from a Chicago NBC TV film clip appears to me to be her personal opinion and not the official position of the Black Lives Matter Global Network. I have read over the “What We Believe” statement on the Black Lives Matter website. Nothing there advocates or condones destruction of property or theft of property. Therefore I must disagree with the writer’s contention that there is an inherent conflict in the positions the CHC and other organizations in supporting Black Lives Matter and at the same time condemning the destruction of property.

Edward S. Barnard

George Coates, Jr. tries to persuade us that the leadership of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy and the Philadelphia Cricket Club are guilty of "abandoning their duty as stewards of those institutions" by being co-signatories of a public letter in support Black Lives Matter. The legalistic and tendentious style in which the article is written makes it seem plausible at first glance. But a little bit of research and reflection reveal the core argument to be entirely specious. The first basic error is that Black Lives Matter does not officially endorse any kind of violence or destruction of property. A careful review of “What We Believe” on the Black Lives Matter website (blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe) reveals the overall intent of the movement to be not only peaceful but profoundly constructive. The only references to violence are in condemnations of state-sponsored violence against people of color and other marginalized groups.

So Mr. Coates makes the basic mistake of confusing statements made by a few individuals, often in moments of great agitation and emotional turmoil, with the readily available mission statement of Black Lives Matter.  Equally important is his failure to note that the vast majority of participants in Black Lives Matter demonstrations and marches have been peaceful.

The incidents of property destruction that have occurred have been in some cases dramatic and extremely counterproductive. But they have been committed by a tiny fringe who are not acting in accord with the Black Lives Matter mission statement. And, in fact, some of the incidents have been tied to alt-right extremists apparently hoping to start a race riot that would provide them an opportunity to freely inflict violence on people of color. We share Mr. Coates' abhorrence of violent property destruction in support of any social movement. That would include incidents such as the so-called Boston Tea Party that many self-styled patriots love to romanticize.  But we stand with Black Lives Matter in their peaceful campaign to promote Black dignity and freedom from oppression. And we applaud all the co-signatories to the public statement in support of that heroic and much needed social protest movement.

Alan and Leni Windle

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