Read Full Essay at OUTSET
Last Friday, POLITICO reported that the White House is considering Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. for a position at the Department of Homeland Security.
According to the report, “Clarke is in line to be appointed as assistant secretary at DHS’ Office of Partnership and Engagement, which coordinates outreach to state, local and tribal officials and law enforcement.”
This announcement should come as no surprise to those who have astutely observed Sheriff Clarke’s recent dramatic rise to national notoriety since coming out as a vociferous supporter of Donald Trump.
It is worth noting that Clarke’s claim to fame as a vocal Trump surrogate was bolstered considerably by his outspoken stance on gun rights, and his constant incendiary denunciation of the Black Lives Matter movement (Clarke often dubs the movement, “Black ‘Lies’ Matter”). In fact, it seems that the more inflammatory his rhetoric about BLM became, the more frequently Clarke was rewarded with media airtime.
In the wake of the tragic 2015 shooting death of Houston County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth, Sheriff David Clarke–capitalizing on the publicity of the high-profile event–appeared on Fox News alleging that BLM activists’ “war on cops” rhetoric was directly responsible for the officer’s death:
“I’m tired of hearing people call these people black activists, they’re not activists, this is black slime and it needs to be eradicated from the American society and the American culture…stand up and start pushing back against this slime, this filth.”
These comments are manifestly heinous, and a proper analysis of this rhetoric should take place within a broader critique of the BLM movement.
There are numerous legitimate criticisms of BLM, not the least of which are its disorganized and misdirected leadership, and its affinity for propping up unsavory personalities like limelight activist DeRay McKesson and unrepentant race huckster Shaun King. Additionally, the movement utterly lacks a robust intellectual vehicle for achieving its ostensible goal: ending the extrajudicial killings and brutality of blacks at the hands of law enforcement and vigilantes. In fact, until just last year when they released their “list of demands,” BLM failed to articulate any concrete, clear objectives in support of their primary goal.
What exactly does BLM want, and how do they plan to accomplish it? Few people can answer this question. Further, what exactly is the difference between BLM, the movement, and the closely related, Campaign Zero? Even fewer people have an intelligent answer to this question, and this is wholly BLM’s fault.
To say that BLM has a messaging problem is certainly an understatement.
However, BLM leaders do not seem especially concerned about the fact that the movement is largely bereft of a cohesive strategy. In fact, BLM seemingly prides itself on being an indistinct and amorphous organization with no discernible form of centralized leadership. At blacklivesmatter.com, they declare:
“The Black Lives Matter movement is a ‘leaderfull’ movement…#BlackLivesMatter is an online forum intended to build connections between Black people and our allies to fight anti-Black racism, to spark dialogue among Black people, and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement…Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes…Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”
What began organically as an explicitly anti-brutality movement in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin (the movement gained steam following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri) has morphed into a shambolic campaign for LGBTQ advocacy and Black Liberation through broadly-defined “social action and engagement.” Meanwhile, its inaugural issue–police brutality– has been effectively back-burned.
The movement clearly lacks focus.
As a result of these deficiencies, leaders and representatives of the movement have had tremendous difficulty distancing themselves from several extremist spin-offs or latch-on groups that condone or encourage detestable behaviors, such as rioting or violence against cops. BLM members and affiliates have also been known to engage in undisciplined and unproductive activities, such as disrupting travel at airports and on congested roadways. The lack of direction and strategic leadership plaguing the movement has been the most significant impediment to its success. Notwithstanding the many valid critiques of the Black Lives Matter movement, Sheriff David Clarke deserves scathing criticism for his comments.