The Great Divide
I was tasked with analyzing a portion of the Black Lives Matter Movement. I first began my analysis by picking three different data sets to analyze. I analyzed one video related to the movement, an article critical of the movement, as well as a piece of social media that was relevant to the movement. The first thing that I chose was the article. The article was written by Barbara Reynolds and was entitled, “I was a civil rights activist in the 1960s. But it’s hard for me to get behind Black Lives Matter. I support BLM’s cause, but not its approach.”
I chose this article because it immediately caught my eye. I was interested in researching and analyzing what a former member of the Civil Rights Movement had to say about Black Lives Matter. Before I read the article that I chose, I largely assumed that it would mostly be about an older woman who was reluctant to get behind Black Lives Matter because of how things were done. After reading the article, I quickly realized that the author’s sole goal was to bash the Black Lives Matter Movement while simultaneously comparing it to the Civil Rights Movement. She was very critical of the approach that young activists were taking. She was even more critical of the company they kept arguing that it was hard to differentiate between the rioters and those that are true activists. She blamed the actions of the Black Lives Matter protestors to help explain the lack of involvement from other elders like herself and critiqued them for being too narrow on their focus on black lives.
After I was content with my article choice I began to look for a fitting video in the links provided by Dr. Vrooman. The video that I chose was a YouTube video. The video was a Black Lives Matter panel discussion with Angela Davis and some local leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement in Washington D.C. I was drawn to this video because Angela Davis was a member of the panel.
Angela Davis is a pioneer in the area of Civil Rights. She is a renowned author, speaker, and she has been fighting for Civil Rights since the 1960s. She is a true legend and I thought it would be interesting to listen to her viewpoint, guided by wisdom that only she can have, in conjunction with the words and wisdom of the other young panelists present. My article and my video already set me on the path to try and uncover what I felt to be a great generational divide. One of the questions that an audience member asked the panel was about seeking counsel from elders. The answers the panelists provided as well as the passion behind the initial question made it clear to me that some of the organizers wanted to reach out to elders and Civil Rights pioneers like Angela Davis. Although that was true, they were reluctant to do so, because they were concerned about encountering an elder like Barbara Reynolds who invalidated their movement because it rejected the framework set by the original Civil Rights Movements.
My video and article drove me in a direction that was opposite the original hashtag that I chose to analyze. Because of this, I had to change my original approach to social media. I was curious as to whether or not this generational divide was present on social media. I thought that the best way for me to answer this question would be for me to look at the Twitter page of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter Movement (Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi) and compare the way they use their platform to someone who is closely aligned with the Civil Rights Movement. I chose to look at Reverend Al Sharpton’s Twitter because he was very active on Social Media as opposed to someone like Reverend Jesse Jackson.
The first thing that I did was reread my article so that I could try to determine all of the different types of arguments she was making. Most of the arguments made were fallacious ones. For example, the article featured a lot of quasilogical arguments, weak analogies, and red herrings. An example of a type of quasilogical argument she uses a lot is the Golden Age argument. In fact, the Golden Age argument is the essence of this entire article in that the author seeks to prove the claim that the original Civil Rights Movement was the ideal model to follow and that the new movement should seek to follow in the framework that the provided. In other words, if it’s not broke don’t fix it. The author does acknowledge the benefits of modifications that Black Lives Matters organizers made by deliberately including women. But that is it.
She still firmly believes that the Black Lives Matter Movement lacks organization, clear demands and goals, as well as a clear leader. The author also finds their slogan to be divisive stating, “In a sense, even the slogan “Black Lives Matter” is too broad because the movement overlooks black-on-black homicides, the leading cause of death for black males between the ages of 15 and 34. That horrific fact remains off the movement’s radar, for fear that it puts black men in a negative light. So which black lives really matter?” This quote is a Straw Man fallacy (Red Herring family) because the premise of black on black crime is unrelated to the claim that the movement is too broad in claiming black lives matter.
The author also makes a hasty generalization based on an unrepresentative sample. “The 1960s movement also had an innate respectability because our leaders often were heads of the black church, as well. Unfortunately, church and spirituality are not high priorities for Black Lives Matter, and the ethics of love, forgiveness and reconciliation that empowered black leaders such as King and Nelson Mandela in their successful quests to win over their oppressors are missing from this movement. The power of the spiritual approach was evident recently in the way relatives of the nine victims in the Charleston church shooting responded at the bond hearing for Dylan Roof, the young white man who reportedly confessed to killing the church members “to start a race war.” One by one, the relatives stood in the courtroom, forgave the accused racist killer and prayed for mercy on his soul. As a result, in the wake of that horrific tragedy, not a single building was burned down. There was no riot or looting.”
Reynolds is drawing a lot of conclusions about Black Lives Matter from a small sample of rioters that she has seen. She then begins to use that very same small sample of rioters to draw conclusions as she attempts to relate the entire BLM mvmt to the CRM. The rioters that she is talking about is not representative of the entire movement
Both of these tactics are detrimental to her own claims if they are presented to someone who believes in the purpose of the movement. This is because she is condemning a movement without recognizing the explicit connection that Black Lives Matter had in protesting the acts that occurred at the Charleston church. It is almost as if she is trying to give credit for the church members response to the Civil Rights Movement but they really had nothing to do with it (unless of course Al Sharpton was chasing ambulances again).
Looking at all of this made me realize that Barbara Reynolds was making a lot of “us” versus “them” statements. She would acknowledge the counterarguments and make some concessions like saying Baby boomers are too judgmental. However, acknowledging some of the counterarguments that Millennials may make was just another tactic she employed. Although she does this, she follows through with criticizing the movement and its tactics even more, as well as citing people who belong to Black Lives Matter verbally attacking elders like Oprah for a reason for their lack of support.
She also recognizes that the Black Lives Matter Movement does take into account the voices that the Civil Rights Movement largely left out (women, undocumented individuals, folks with disabilities, etc.) but she claims that they still have too narrow of a focus because they only focus on black lives. Reynolds is especially critical of this because they are leaving out sympathizers who want to recognize and say all lives matter.
The next thing that I did was to look at the social media profiles of Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Al Sharpton. I wanted to know if they were making any larger argumenta about the generational divide characterized by Baby boomers and Millennials. I chose my tweets by scrolling and then screenshotting at random. I chose to peruse Al Sharpton’s profile first. Sharpton has a very edited-political style twitter profile. There wasn’t much to analyze argument wise because he didn’t really make any arguments all. His profile is mostly used for advertising him, his organizations, or the work he is doing via the radio or on television. He also posted a lot of pictures with him and other people or just him.
Sharpton does make a few tweets about police brutality but most of his tweets are retweets about him or something he is directly mentioned in. He did make one tweet that referenced Martin Luther King Jr. The tweet said “Justice delayed is justice denied! It’s a slap in the face of fairness and accountability. Time to gear up for a tough battle. MLK style.” This tweet indicates that Sharpton sees himself as someone who follows in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. when it comes to approaching social issues. In doing so, he sets himself a part from the Black Lives Matter movement and leadership as he does not reference them on his Twitter.
Patrisse Cullors is the most outspoken of the three co-founders. She speaks on a variety of issues and is unfiltered. She currently identifies as an abolitionist and talks about what that entails the most on her feed. She is not really interested in making any arguments or commenting on the generational issues within the movement. Although this is true, she obviously aligns herself with a Millennials in the way she tweets as well as the content of her tweets.
Both Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza have more retweets than Patrisse but they aren’t about themselves or what they are doing. They both are retweeting other people, allowing those individuals access to their platform giving them an effective voice. They are more politically correct than Patrisse and don’t frequent Twitter as much. Alicia Garza posts to Twitter the least out of the three. Neither of these women make explicit statements concerning the generational gulf between Baby boomers and Millennials but they, like Patrisse, show passion when discussing certain issues and ideas that Millennials would understand.
From Twitter I moved on to examining the video. After watching the video once, I broke it down into important sections. I didn’t focus on arguments that were being created according to Perelman or any of the other charts we were given but I did select sections that related to different chapters and aspects of the Persuasion and Social Movements book. Before I go into that I would like to provide a brief summary of what I found in the video. The first 12 minutes were focused on leadership. Erica, one of the panelists was quick to point out that there are some elders who affirm the way they disrupt. This means that they agree with their leadership style and organizational tactics i.e. the purposeful release of respectability politics and misogyny that organizers see as barriers to getting stuff done
Minutes 13-15 and 18-21 center around the use of the slogan. Namely the word black. One of the panelists said that the word black is unsettling to a lot of people. As such, they are seeking to reaffirm that word. Doing so means that Black Lives Matter is calling into question different hegemonic structures and traditional assumptions about a society into question.
Minutes 29-38 were dedicated to a question about the lack of support from elders. The person asking the question wanted to know how she could position herself to ask for counsel from elders who are not positioning themselves in the community? The young lady saw elders as rejecting her and not affirming the way she goes about doing things. In turn, this lack of support or available counsel would make it harder for her to successfully navigate her own movement.
Angela Davis suggested that instead of hierarchical relationships between the young and the old, intergenerational relationships should become the center and focus of the movement. Doing this would allow learning on both sides of the spectrum. Old people can learn from the experiences of young people just as well as young people learning from the experiences of the old. This approach will be difficult because the youth are moving into unexplored terrain acquiring new ideas about what it will take to bring radical change i.e. intersectional issues. This goes against what these elders have known for most of their lives and it can be kind of hard for them to change that.
Erica, one of the panelists, says that she is careful about the elders she seeks counsel from because oftentimes elders are romanticized and many of the elders have been unable to deconstruct their internalized white supremacy. As such, they are only able to teach out of that framework. That framework does not allow for some elders to understand therefore they can’t affirm the movement and its seemingly radical approach.
After examining the arguments made within my article, twitter profiles, as well as the video, I applied all three to the Persuasion and Social Movements book. In the article, Reynolds speaks to the charismatic leadership position spoken of in the book. She criticizes the Black Lives Matter Movement for not having a clear charismatic leader. She also is critical of it being difficult to differentiate between the activists from the normal rioters. Most of Reynolds’ arguments are based on the idea that you need to have a face to the movement. Instead of the leadership style portrayed in the Persuasion and Social Movement book, BLM has creators that are well known as well as local organizers. This leadership and organizational style allows for them to customize the movement to best fit the needs of those in the area that they are in.
The video also speaks on this idea of effective leadership. The panel members discussed the benefits of not having a movement with one figurehead. It allows the opportunity for more people to identify with the movement in its entirety. It also allows the disenfranchised to definitely have a voice. Black Lives Matter is centered on this notion of a collective leadership or organizers. There is no room for a single black male charismatic leader because Black Lives Matter is intent on deconstructing the framework that was built on misogyny and respectability politics. They are insistent that new, intersectional approaches be taken.
Unlike the image portrayed in the article, Black Lives Matter would like to allow the elders to get involved. They will only allow this to happen if the elders understand that they must also deconstruct their internalized white supremacy and reject the same framework that was proven effective to them in the past.
The next thing that I discussed related to the Social Movements book was the use of slogans. The author of my article attacks the slogan used because it excludes other people from identifying with that. Because of this, she claims that Black Lives Matter is contradicting their claims of total inclusivity. The article also points out that the movement loses sympathy because Black Lives Matter activists and organizers are consistently shutting down sympathizers who say all lives matter.
When the video discussed the problem with the slogan it was done in a way that centered all of the points of contention on the word black. This is because of how the word black was used in the past as well as the history behind that term. Black Lives Matter, in reclaiming the title black in an affirmative manner, is calling into question different hierarchies that are already a part of society’s framework. People take this the wrong way because they are forced to face the truth about a system they thought was normal and functional.
The last things I discussed in terms of the Social Movements book is Perceptions of the past, the present, and the future. I chose these three because they indicate a historical or generational presence. I felt like this would help me make an argument on the generational divide. In considering perceptions of the past, the article specifically criticizes the Black Lives Matter Movement for not hearkening back to the past. The author idealizes the past and the Civil Rights Movements tactics and motives. The Civil Rights Movement took the approach of seeing the past as generally unknown by everyone else. This led them to civilly disrupt things. The video points out that the Black Lives Matter Movement is not really trying to change the perceptions of the past or act like individuals did not know. They are very in your face about what everyone should know has happened and is still happening.
Next I looked at perceptions of the present. The article admitted that the Black Lives Matter Movement does center a new intersectional approach but the author argues that this approach is largely ineffective without the framework implemented by the Civil Rights Movement. The current movement has less tolerance for ignorance. They’re main focus is on the present as they are trying to change people’s perception about unequal treatment and what that looks like. They spend a large part of their time trying to get ppl, especially elders, to see that racism is still racism but the racism that blacks and others experience today is not the same as the type experienced by the elders in the 60s.
Lastly, I looked at perceptions of the future. The article portrays the future as being worse in that inequality will become more prevalent if issues are not fixed now. The video doesn’t see it that way and describes Black Lives Matter’s approach to the future as one that seeks to abolish hierarchical systems. This, being the ultimate goal of Black Lives Matter is hard to reach. This is because they have no idea what a new system could look like. This furthers the generational divide between the elders and the organizers because the elders see the organizers as being incapable of knowing what they want.
In concluding this paper, I will attempt to make a broader argument about the generational divide that is keeping Black Lives Matter from reaching their ultimate goal/perception of the future. In doing so, I considered the different analyses I made concerning the three data pools and their relation to argument types, fallacies, and the social movement book. I will now take those analyses and combine that with a larger methodological approach to build my argument.
The generational divide between Baby boomers and Millennials are indicative of a failed rhetoric of community as described by Karenga’s work. There is no communal deliberation or discourse causing the young organizers and they feel abandoned by the wise elders. This divide is widened by the elders focusing on this idea of nommo as expressed by Karenga’s work in that older generations think that the current generation should build from the framework that they created even though millennials see that work as flawed. Millennials are appreciative of the strides made but are no longer interested in continuing in that same pattern.
In other words, organizers are practicing a rhetoric of resistance that Black Lives Matter chooses to center itself in. Black Lives Matter actively resist the existing power structures, as such, they are resisting any elders that still internalize them. Even though they are resisting many elders that have been unable to deconstruct their internalized power structures they are seeking counsel and reaffirmation from elders that have proven themselves to have a mestiza consciousness, while they are also seeking to reaffirm the notion of blackness.
I think that the bigger issue here is that there is a lot of back and forth between the two generational groups. It is almost as if they are struggling within a hierarchy of age instead of just taking an intergenerational approach like Angela Davis suggested. I think that this intergenerational approach could help Black Lives Matter reach their ultimate goal of a new system that is not oppressive and is more understanding. It would also allow them more resources to pull from, allowing them to keep the demands of the movement in the public eye.