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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/1/15

Democrats Seek to Co-Opt Black Lives Matter Before Election

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The Democratic National Committee passed a resolution at its summer meeting on August 28, which endorsed "Black lives matter." The resolution was an effort by Democrats to co-opt the energy coming from the movement for black lives and steer it into the 2016 Election.

There are distinct parallels between the Democratic Party's reaction to Black Lives Matter and how the party responded to the civil rights movement and black revolutionary groups of the late 1960s.

The DNC resolution stated, "We hear the 'Black lives matter' cry from the inspiration of creators Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza, and from the heart of a generation of young African Americans who feel totally dismissed and unheard as they are crushed between unlawful street violence and unjust police violence."

"We salute the courageous young people who participate in the #March2Justice, and we repeat the chant 'say her name' to acknowledge the Black women whose stories are often untold and whose cases are unresolved," the resolution added.

"The DNC joins with Americans across the country in affirming 'Black lives matter' and the 'say her name' efforts to make visible the pain of our fellow and sister Americans as they condemn extrajudicial killings of unarmed African American men, women and children," the resolution further declared.

It "renewed" prior calls for "systemic reforms at state, local, and federal levels," which would "prohibit law enforcement from profiling based on race, nationality, ethnicity, or religion," "minimize the transfer of excess" military-grade equipment to police, and "support prevention programs that give young people alternatives to incarceration."

Two days later, the Black Lives Matter organization rejected the DNC's resolution as "business as usual."

"The Black Lives Matter Network is clear that a resolution from the Democratic National Committee won't bring the changes we seek," the organization declared. "Resolutions without concrete change are just business as usual. Promises are not policies. We demand freedom for black bodies, justice for black lives, safety for black communities, and rights for black people. We demand action, not words, from those who purport to stand with us."

The decision to support the movement for black lives is, to some extent, a response to activists targeting presidential candidate events. The party also is performing a function it has historically served when the country has been faced with social movements.

Inarguably, protests led by black Americans in communities across the country have positively contributed to reflections on institutional racism. However, one line of the resolution suggested "without systemic reform" unrest will continue to jeopardize the "well-being of our democracy and our nation."

The idea the Black Lives Matter movement may jeopardize the "well-being" of the country makes it seem like a national security issue. Though no Democrats may be saying this, law enforcement officers have tied ambushes against police to the rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter movement. Party leaders feel pressured to address growing dissent against an entire system before long-lasting damage is done.

"Cut out this freedom rider and sitting-in stuff"

As Lance Selfa comprehensively outlines in his book, "Democrats: A Critical History," the Democratic Party has relied on electoral politics before to contain black movements.

President John F. Kennedy favored the pursuit of voting rights through legal strategies rather than direct action. His administration chose to handle most civil rights matters through an office in the Justice Department.

Similarly, President Barack Obama's administration has relied upon the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to investigate dozens of police departments accused of racism and violence. Attorney General Eric Holder denounced "stand your ground" laws and defended voting rights laws so the White House could avoid getting into issues of race. (*Note: After Michael Brown was killed by a Ferguson police officer, it became virtually impossible for Obama to remain on the sidelines. He appointed a task force which reviewed policies of police.)

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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