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What White Liberals Angry At #BlackLivesMatter Are Getting All Wrong

On July 18, at the Netroots Nation, the progressive conference held in Phoenix, Arizona, Black Lives Matter activists interrupted a town hall meeting with Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders and criticized their campaigns for not adequately addressing criminal justice reform.

Then, on August 8, Black Lives Matter activists interrupted Bernie Sanders' rally in Seattle and criticized his campaign for not adequately addressing racial injustice.

And then, just a few days ago, #BlackLivesMatter activists interrupted a Jeb Bush rally in North Las Vegas.

Despite the criticism of these interruptions by white liberals everywhere, this is how real change happens.  Those who suffer from systematic oppression don't have the luxury of just waiting around and saying please and thanks to incite change.

They live in a culture in which they are silenced, over and over again, so they have to take risks and, sometimes, be extreme to make sure their voices are heard.  And these particular interruptions weren't even violent — they were merely calls for the basic recognition of black lives.

That we are more offended by a few raised voices than we are about continued systematic oppression says something far more serious about our nation than anything else.

To blacks, everything is Black Lives Matter. Blacks face the terrible fact that their lives do not matter, every single day.

They're victims of all kinds of systematic political, social and economic inequalities. They're dying at the hands of people who are supposed to protect them.One in three black men born today will be locked up in prison.

It should therefore be no surprise that, at rallies held by potential Presidents of the United States, blacks want to make sure that  all 45 million of their lives will soon matter.

Darnell L. Moore, who, along with Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors organized the #BlackLivesMatter ride to Ferguson in August 2014 in response to officer Darren Wilson's shooting and killing of Michael Brown, stressed that “movements need moments like the demonstration Saturday [in Seattle] as a reminder of this need for focus.”

It's true — they do. Because those interruptions actually worked.

After the July 18 interruption, O'Malley apologized on Twitter for his comments, and Sanders included his vision for criminal justice reform in his Southern Christian Leadership Conference speech on July 25.

In his speech, Sanders added a discussion about “the need for community policing, a federal police training model, education and skills training for the incarcerated and ending the incarceration of young people as initiatives that he believes need to be pursued,” according to Sydney Brownstone, writer for The Stranger.

He also called it an “obscenity” that there are “so many young Americans with a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy.”

Then, on the Sunday after the activists disrupted Sanders in Seattle, Sanders responded once again by adding racial justice to his online platform.

There's no way of knowing yet whether the interruption during the Jeb Bush rally will have the same effect, but it doesn't look like these activists will be slowing down any time soon.

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Alexia LaFata

Digital Editor

Alexia LaFata is a Senior Editor. She's a proud New Jersey native and Boston College graduate. When she's not writing, she's watching documentaries, practicing her Cher impression, or eating pasta. Stalk her at alexialafata.com.
Alexia LaFata is a Senior Editor. She's a proud New Jersey native and Boston College graduate. When she's not writing, she's watching documentaries, practicing her Cher impression, or eating pasta. Stalk her at alexialafata.com.

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