#BlackLivesMatters To #ChangingSystems

Sunday I was trying to think thru something and so went back to this piece I really appreciate,  “Leverage Points: Places To Intervene In A System” by Donella

#BLM7.12

Photo credit: Gail Manker. Silent Protest 7.12.16 organized by Ayodeji Young

Meadows and it hit me, again, how a lot of us are sleeping  the demonstrations strategy  of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Meadows ranks the  ways to move a system from the weakest, changing out specific people (e.g. elections) or the numbers of a system (e.g. tax rates), to the most powerful lever, the mindset that sits behind the overall culture. The murders of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile by police followed by the murders of five Dallas police officers, again put the need for a new system front and center. In explaining mind shift as the most powerful of all system change levers, the actions of #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations become not just clearly courageous… but strategic and it’s that last piece, strategy, that’s not getting  enough love. We should support and join the demonstrations as the highest level of  system change i.e. mindset change because the demonstrations go right at the core idea of white supremacy: Black lives do not matter as much as white lives, ideas and comfort and Black lives really only matter when they contribute to white lives (this is also, a core idea of Critical Race Theory, the framer of which, Prof Derrick Bell, came right from this Hill District. Love and Light to him.) The demonstrations insist our lives cannot go on undisturbed while Black people are murdered by police. These reverberations are felt society wide, including in the halls of institutional power.

At the most recent Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conference, Alicia Garza, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter Network, gave a short talk and I had the honor of moderating the Q & A. To help stimulate conversation about Ms. Garza’s talk, I wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt to the opening reception and as a result, a couple of colleagues shared what I hear as a lingering and often held doubt: “#BlackLivesMatter is great, but I am curious to see what it accomplishes.” In addition to the speaker positioning themselves as a spectator, I also think it misses what the #BlackLivesMatter movement has already accomplished just in that moment: we are discussing police violence and killings of Black people right there and then and what has been known for decades upon decades in Black communities is now one of the most talked about subjects all across the country. But what it really misses is how by marching, stopping traffic, calling for us to #shutitdown, #BlackLivesMatter and its leadership, so many of whom are young & female & Queer, have correctly identified the key lever of change: the mindset that Black lives could never warrant this kind of attention, particularly not in ways that inconvenience and make uncomfortable the lives of white people, and the mindset of too many of us Black people that our murder and unjust treatment by police is part and parcel of what it is to be Black and living in America. These shifts in mindset simultaneously shift the world. Meadows point is that the mindset lever then lets the other weaker levers like policy change do their work, including the set of policies that Campaign Zero released yesterday. Amen to that.

 

 

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