The Black Lives Matter Movement and the Struggle for Representation

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By Ryan Hovey, Writer

This year, the Black Lives Matter movement has become the largest civil rights movement in the history of the world. Activists across the country have risked their health throughout the year in order to show their support for the movement. The protests have largely been in response to the many victims of police brutality, but they also encompass systemic racism, an issue as ingrained in our country as the Fourth of July. 

Demonstrations held across the country featured marching and speeches. They promoted discourse and education on social media and among politicians, as the topic was extremely relevant during this year’s election. Demonstrations surely affected the point of view of many, but one person was especially inspired after attending a New York City protest.

“The BLM protests showed me that this country’s working class is not the passive mass that the politicians and corporations assume it to be,” says Marina Blumenchein, a student at Hunter College with a particular interest in Marxism.

This year, Black Lives Matter activists showed overwhelming support for President-Elect Joe Biden during his run for president. This does not come as a surprise when accounting for President Donald Trump’s attitude towards protestors. Joe Biden and the Democratic Party are clearly more suited to the ideals of the protestors when it comes to policy, but a bit of research can uncover some discrepancies between the Democratic Party’s actions and the wants of the BLM movement.

Demonstrators walk across Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan to protest against police brutality and racism in New York on Saturday
New York City Black Lives Matter protesters marched in June – AFP via Getty Images

“The Democrats and Republicans, despite professing to be representatives of working class interests, ultimately have the same aim,” says Blumenchein. “Namely, to develop a strong State that provides for the needs of Americans just enough to keep them from demanding a system where the needs of all are met.”

A system where the needs of all are met is precisely what the BLM protestors want and, in the past, the Democratic Party has taken action against that goal. Whether it be through the war on drugs, an initiative supported by President Bill Clinton with the goal of the mass incarceration of black men through the criminalization of drugs like marijuana and crack cocaine, or through crime bills supported by President-Elect Joe Biden that favored over-policing in impoverished, crime ridden areas instead of addressing the systemic issues causing people to commit crimes, the Democratic Party has played its part in perpetrating systemic racism in the United States.

So… which political party would BLM protestors fall under? Well, the devastatingly short answer is, none. As Blumenchein states, “The BLM protestors and the oppressed people of America cannot be represented by political parties whose existence depends on corporate sponsorships.” 

Both major political parties in the United States are run by the rich, according to Blumenchein, who says, “The rich who control this country do not view regular people as anything more than a resource for labor, which is of course reflected by the ambivalence of our government to enact any structural change.” 

However, just because there is no suitable political party for these activists, does not mean that there is no hope for their demands to be met. The popularity of socialist ideas such as socialized healthcare, free college and even forms of a socialist economy is rising, especially among the youth. According to a survey done by Gallup News, socialism is regarded as a positive thing by roughly half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 39. Even two of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, have described themselves as “Trained Marxists.”

Among these radical leftists, there are many opinions about the next step for socialism in America. Orion Cain, a student at New Paltz High School, explained that, “In America, we are not set up for a socialist revolution. We are becoming more left but we are also moving further right. We are closer to fascism than socialism right now. We need to focus on preserving democracy in our country right now.”

While our country is becoming more acceptable towards socialist ideas, made incredibly clear by a YoungGov poll showing a 9% increase in the favorability of the term ‘socialism’ among Generation Z since last year, the political divide in the country is greater than ever. The two sides are becoming more and more radical, which, as proven in the 2020 presidential election, can threaten democracy.

According to Cain, the best course of action is, “more representation and a more democratic system.” Democratic socialists like Senator Bernie Sanders and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar are gaining popularity and influence through their positions as members of Congress. “We definitely need to move things left to get to the dramatic reforms of long term effects of systemic racism,” says Cain. Socialist representation is growing, and it is slowly but surely creating a base of representation for Black Lives Matter activists.

Featured Photo: Zofia Trzewik-Quinn