Maybe If We Just Listened to Black Voices, Black Lives Matter Protests Wouldn’t Get So Heated

May 31, 2016
By: Rianna Lee

On Tuesday, May 24, journalist and self-proclaimed “World’s Most Fabulous Super-villain,” Milo Yiannopoulos visited DePaul University in Chicago, IL, for an event called “One Night – LIVE!”, hosted by the DePaul College Republicans. His event was cut short after several Black Lives Matter activists blew whistles and stole the stage. If you’ve never heard of this guy – because I hadn’t heard of him until this event – and you support racial equality, feminism, or any other social movement that benefits someone other than white Christian males, you’ll probably find his beliefs to be nothing short of cringe-worthy.

Before the BLM activists stormed the stage and stole the microphone from the moderator, Milo spoke out about opposition he has faced on college campuses regarding safety cancellations due to Black Lives Matter activists and those who try to silence his (blatantly problematic) speeches: “…if you have a particular set of opinions, and you fall outside of a particular group, the left isn’t going to like you very much. It’s going to do all it can to shut you up, to shut you down, to call you names…” Ironically, the white majority has done this to the black minority for the last several hundred years. The white majority is now just beginning to see the damage that has been done over the last several centuries.

Criticism of the BLM movement was rampant after the incident at DePaul, as it always is after a BLM protest. Milo supporters, who as far as I could tell are predominantly white, were asking why the protest was so violent. The protest, as far as I could tell, was not all that violent. There were some heated moments in the beginning, such as when one protester grabbed the microphone from the moderator. But there were no fights or physical altercations, just the harsh words of reality being exchanged between the oppressors and the oppressed.

Was the protest charged with anger? Absolutely – as it should be! Black voices have been silenced by the white majority for centuries. During the Civil Rights Era in the 1960s, minorities saw more freedoms being rightfully granted to them and less blatant discrimination, but the roots of racism still run deep in our culture, and the ways in which it manifests itself are subtler than ever. We perpetuate stereotypes that young black men are violent thugs, so the media can shrug off police brutality as “self-defense.” We gentrify historically black neighborhoods by renovating and rebuilding new, expensive houses and shops that attract wealthy, white newcomers; thereby pushing black residents, who have the odds stacked against them socially AND economically, out of their own neighborhoods.

White folks have no room to criticize the Black Lives Matter movement for getting angry during their protests. Sometimes anger and uncomfortable conversations are the only way to solve a problem when the oppressors refuse to listen. I will agree that some BLM protests have turned violent in the past, and violence does not beget more violence, especially when you’re trying to get across a message of peace and unity. But by the same token, anger and rage is normal when a group is trying to voice their struggles, and they are met with eye rolls and shrugs, as if to say, “I don’t experience your struggles, so they must not be there.” The struggles of minorities ARE there, though, and maybe if folks with privilege begin to not only hear, but LISTEN to the struggles of minorities, BLM protests would not be so charged with anger.

Maybe, just maybe, one day we can discuss our struggles openly and begin to solve issues of racism and inequality together. One can only dream…

Rianna is a summer intern for the Thomas Merton Center and a senior at Duquesne University, studying international relations and sociology. She is interested in law and public policy surrounding gender and women’s rights. In her spare time, you can catch her eating at Chipotle with her friends or playing with her two guinea pigs, Thor and Loki.

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