This article is 4 years old


The Harm in Depoliticizing Anti-Racist Movements

Recently, the internet has been flooded with messages and media surrounding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Throughout a multitude of controversies, a certain rhetoric has grown in popularity with many liberals: The idea that BLM and other anti-racist movements are separate from politics. It doesn’t matter if you are conservative or liberal, or if you agree with everything the BLM movement has done; all that matters is that you believe on a basic level that “Black lives matter.” While this idea can be appealing, in the long run, enforcing the idea that racism is somehow separate from politics is both false and extremely counter productive. The truth of the matter is that it is inherently contradictory to say “Black lives matter” while benefiting from and upholding a system that was built on violence against and exploitation of Black people. If we want to be committed to a world where Black lives truly matter, we must also commit to the long term work of dismantling these systems of colonization and capitalism.

The narrative that one can ‘support’ Black Lives Matter whilst being a conservative is directly contradictory to the priorities of the movement. Since its founding, the movement has consistently and firmly taken a stand against oppressive and racist systems upheld by conservatives, such as our criminal justice and policing system. Social, racial, and environmental justice are deeply interrelated, and as such, one cannot take a conservative stance on one but a liberal stance on another. 

Although making statements like these may seem like a quick and easy way to garner support for the movement, they ignore the reality that true allyship is not easy. At the end of the day, surface level allyship serves only to assuage white guilt, as opposed to serving actual marginalized communities.

In addition, to claim that politics is somehow separate from human rights issues is both dangerous and inaccurate. Project Unsettlement Collective, a digital zine that works to spread information about Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) issues writes about this in an infographic, stating that “the very existence of BIPOC is politicized- allyship must be as well. For many BIPOC, queer people, womxn, poor and working-class families, and other marginalized communities, politics can make the difference between life and death. Their basic rights depend on who holds office. Whether they vote accordingly or not, these communities cannot afford to vote Republican because to do so in many cases means potentially losing their right to healthcare, being able to marry the person they love, a science-based education, or to practice their own religion freely and safely. By perpetuating the idea that one can be politically or economically conservative but “socially liberal,” we allow this harmful separation of humanity and politics to fester.

Racism is built into every crevice of our society. Because of that, being truly anti-racist is inherently abolitionist. It is anti-capitalist. It is radical. And it most certainly is political. It is actively and constantly opposing the capitalist and oppressive systems we live under because to do anything else is only perpetuating them.

For more resources on this topic look up Project Unsettlement on Instagram (@projectunsettlement).