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Civil rights politics get a bit murky


DP Veteran
Apr 22, 2019
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It's a pretty simple issue. There's a bad history of discrimination against black people, and that history has current effects still having a big harm to most black people. There are still some who support various discrimination even now. Opposition to such discrimination and desire for improving equality are positive political desires.

This has fueled a lot of things. For example, after a year where the film industry was embarrassed by basically having no black people awarded at the Oscars, they have taken big steps to change things. Police reform is a frequent project. The media covers the issue much more and differently. Leaders are regularly removed who stand in the way. And there is broad support for the 'black lives matter' movement.

So far, so good. But then things, as is normal, get more murky.

For example, if it 'looks good' for corporations to say they donated to BLM, it can result in what has happened - BLM received $90 million last year in donations. But who runs that, what do they do with that money, what are the issues around it? The organization has said what's happened with a fraction of the money, and there've reportedly been no audits or oversight of the use of the money.

And some questions have been raised, and right-wing media in particular has seemed eager to report that one of the founders now owns a few million dollars in homes, buying in a 'white neighborhood', excited to get to attack her. She says the money has come from her work as a professor, writer, and youtube.

The whole 'issue' is awkward and filled with wrong. The Koch company alone is more than a million times more harmful than any 'wrong' alleged against her; it's very much a double standard about how much her wealth is challenged versus many others. For example, we seem to have forgotten about Mitt Romney's money now that he's out of presidential politics. That's not to say there aren't legitimate issues to look at.

There is a big question how to translate a company saying 'we gave $500,000 to BLM' for their own reasons, and how that $500,000 actually is used for some purpose. It's treated as, 'if it went to the BLM organization, just assume it's a good cause and don't ask any questions'. Not a formula for especially good use of the money, possibly.

Yet as much as we could ask questions about a group's use of $90 million in the name of a cause of helping black people's justice, where is the scrutiny over organizations actually dedicated to harm, like Heritage?

How SHOULD an organization like BLM use the money, and who is to decide? How does one group become 'the group' for a cause and is that a good choice?

Should BLM give the money as charity to black people? To other black activist groups? To black-owned businesses? To black politicians, or politicians of any race who support justice for black people? Or advertising campaigns or what?

An awkward issue has come up, where probably the most famous incident that helped start this movement gaining attention was the killing of Michael Brown in 2014; a controversial incident in which it appears Brown shared the blame at least, and the officer's use of deadly force has some defense, but it did result in a lot of political action for the cause of blacks being killed.

Michael Brown's father has said that the BLM organization should give $20M of that $90M to the Michael Brown foundation. Now that there is money involved, there is fighting over the money.

He says in part he wants to use the money to build a monument celebrating Michael Brown. I think that's a dubious project; the cause Brown's killing helped create support for is something to celebrate, Brown being celebrated is another question.

The basic issue is pretty simple, a good cause. But when it comes to what to actually do - where money should go, what it should be used for, how people will fight over it, the risk of poorly used funds and the risk of mismanagement and corruption - it shows how good causes can get murkier.

That's not to say it's a reason to actually oppose what's done - as I contrasted, there are far worse, larger bad organizations to address. But it's interesting to see how these things work even for a good cause.

I also think that as often is the case, some government policy might be able to do a lot more good, with more transparency, for a good cause - if we can get that done. I'd worry if BLM largely became 'some money was thrown to show we care and not much got done'.

In the 1960's, a movement led to civil rights leaders working with the administration to create civil rights legislation. I'm not sure how much something like that is happening with the current movement, which seems much more chaotic.
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