The Black Lives Matter is one of the most popular protests in the modern world owing to its advocacy for the rights and freedom of black people. It is a global movement that originates from the black American community with its campaigns centered on the prevention of racism and violence against the black people. The origin of these protests is based on the increased police killings of African Americans within the last decade prompting a backlash from the black community. Perhaps the prominence of the movement is anchored around the use of social media in the organization and execution of protests. The use of hash tags has gained prominence following its successful application in the protests after the acquittal of the police officer that killed Trayvon martin. The movement is now recognized for its regular street demonstrations in protests against police brutality, racial profiling and inequality in the United States.
One of the most notable protests organized under the Black Lives Matter banner is the Fergusson protests of 2014. The string of protests followed the now famous killing of Michael Brown, an African American, by the police in the same year. Following the success of these demonstrations, the movement has actively engaged in protests against the death of numerous black Americans under police custody. The originators of the movement include Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors as well as Alicia Garza who have together transformed the movement into a national outfit. Indeed, the movement is now comprised of more than 30 local chapters having grown in stature over the three years of its existence. The movement remains a decentralized unit with no formal command structure.
Despite having borrowed inspiration from the civil rights movement, the black lives matter movement employs different techniques in agitating for the rights of African Americans. Although I have not been directly involved in the black lives matter protests I have had experiences with people affected by the situations. For instance, my best friend is an active participant having been raised in a largely black community. In one occasion, a police officer had arrested African American men only for some of them to end up dead while in custody. Although the police force alluded to the people as having succumbed to illnesses, it was quite clear that they were victims of the prevailing police brutality. The sadness with which my best friend narrates the ordeals makes the subject quite dear to me and its analysis is therefore in order.
Most philosophers have held that instigating civil disobedience or protests is not in order since it goes against the law. In fact, Plato is of the opinion that its justification requires special considerations. By taking such a stand, Plato makes the assumption that the state is reasonably just thus giving the people enough political obligations to obey the law. Only when the government is illegitimate should the people be justified in instigating civil disobedience. Breaking of the law as is evidenced in the Black Lives Matter protests is enough ground against the acts of civil disobedience. Also, since most of the laws are drafted based on independent moral justifications, justification of protests must outweigh these justifications. In Plato’s Crito, Socrates posits that “breaking the law is never right even when the law treats the people wrongly” (Cooper, 2002). It is no wonder that he refuses to escape from the country and agrees to face the jury’s fate despite it being biased and corrupt. It is in the people’s interest to obey the laws of the land so that they can accrue all the benefits conferred to them by the state. The Black Lives Matter protests would thus have been termed as unreasonable by Plato.
On the other hand, Thoreau is an ardent supporter of protests and civil disobedience as a way of forcing the government to take action. Having been involved in a number of protests and consequent imprisonment, Thoreau understands the need for demonstrations. Accordingly, he envisions the government as a machine that is to be operated by the people. In cases when the machine produces injustices against the people, they must produce resistance to stop the actions of the government. The Black Lives Matter protests are highly justified as they are occasioned by the production of injustices by the government against its people. According to Thoreau, governments are more likely to be harmful than helpful and cannot therefore be justified. The arguments in favor of civil disobedience outline the fact that an individual’s conscience cannot be termed inferior to the government’s collective decisions. It is therefore not in order to develop a respect for the law at the expense of one’s rights. Individuals are therefore obligated to execute only that which they deem to be right at any time since “the law never made men a whit more just” (Thoreau, 1849).
The Black Lives Matter is a noble movement that agitates for the respect of African Americans and their rights. Although there are different perspectives towards protests as witnessed in the aforementioned discussions, the very existence of the movement remains to be noble. Indeed, the protests are only occasioned by the very mistreatment of black people by the government through its police force. One of the most visible attribute of the Black Lives Matter movement is the use of social media ion organizing and executing demonstrations. By using such a powerful tool as the internet, the organizers have a better audience and can relate with many more users across the globe. In addition, the movement has stuck to its cause all along leading to immediate action from the government and relevant authorities. The effectiveness of the movement has led to comparisons with the civil rights movement.
Although Plato does not agree with the concept of civil disobedience, the Black Lives Matter is justified in its protests. For instance, the demonstrations against police brutality have seen reduced cases of racial inequality in the treatment of detainees. This is no mean feat and could not have been achieved through advocacy. However, the movement should improve in its organization of protests to exclude the use of violence and force. The movement has in the past been blamed for and associated with the killing of several police officers. Still, the very loose and decentralized structure is a limitation because it is highly susceptible to outside attacks. The organizers have no full control over the movement thus posing threats to its sustainability. The movement may witness divisions across political lines despite having a single cause. The organizers of the movement can also expand their areas of engagement to include more issues affecting the larger population.
Thoreau, Henry David. “On the duty of civil disobedience.” (1849).
Cooper, John M. Plato: Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo. Hackett Publishing, 2002.
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