Nearly a decade ago, the Black Lives Matter movement was born, bringing people who might not always agree together in an unprecedented way to rally against injustice. Things have changed since then.
Not only have things become quieter, not everyone has the same views about BLM as they did when it started.
Seven in 10 U.S. teens say they at least somewhat support the movement, including 31 percent of teenagers who strongly support it, according to a Pew Research survey conducted in April and May among American teens ages 13 to 17. A little over half of U.S. adults (56 percent) said that they support the Black Lives Matter movement, similar to the 55 percent who said the same in 2021 and 2020. Twenty-six percent strongly support the movement, the report finds.
In the second story of the Good Conflict and the Rochester Beacon partnership, we asked dozens of residents if their views had changed since they first learned about the BLM movement. (The partnership is designed to examine whether individual beliefs and perceptions about contentious and polarizing topics can be expanded through written and video journalism and moderated discussions using the Good Conflict approach.)
Many individuals were hesitant about speaking publicly. They were worried about being misunderstood and condemned. Some thought the topic was too political and that their words could become weapons for others.
Hélène Biandudi Hofer, who co-founded Good Conflict, found that those who were willing to share their views had more questions than answers.
“The first time I heard about it was during one of those awful killings of young people and it was initially a very positive and inquisitive kind of thought about Black Lives Matter,” says Richard McCollough, a meteorologist and producer.
A Black man, aware of the Civil Rights movement, he was interested in learning more. McCollough even considered doing a piece on BLM. But the infighting within the organization—the Black Lives Matter Foundation and the movement are separate—soured that idea.
“I work in the community, I’ve been in the community all my life and there are people in the community that have conversations,” he says. “What about Black Lives Matter? What’s going on? We haven’t heard anything from them. That kind of concerns. Grassroots people want to know.”
The connection that drew McCollough to the movement became tenuous.
“They got the attention of the nation. They got the attention of the major media, they got the
attention of major corporations, they got the attention of these people, these corporations that run a lot of things. They caught the attention of the nation. So, from my perspective, ‘My gosh, look at this,’” he says.
Now, McCollough believes the opportunity has been squandered. He would like to know more about the leadership of the organization and the reasons behind a missed opportunity.
When a local demonstration blocked a road, it made Sarah, a counselor who spoke on the condition of anonymity, wonder if it was the best way to get results.
“I just remember thinking, ‘I don’t know if this is the best way to get the outcomes that you’re looking for because it’s just polarizing people,’” she says. “And that’s when I remember just there was a lot of hate speech and there was a lot of like, ‘White Lives Matter,’ or ‘All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter.’ I feel like that took away from what Black Lives Matter actually started for.”
The movement didn’t set out to create a divide, Sarah believes, but to call for fair and just ways to treat Black people. Still, she has questions.
“Money is part of it, but also how are the actions being taken actually benefiting people?” she says. “Because that’s where I’m still seeing a big divide, (it’s) people are upset, but there’s still police brutality, there’s still people of color getting assaulted, there’s a lot happening still and I don’t necessarily know if what the intention behind the movement actually has gotten through to people, more so than people are just angry.
“And I feel like now when people hear BLM, they’re like, ‘Oh. That’s a like a cult or something like that.’ People have very strong opinions about that. And you should have a strong opinion, but not because of the actions, but because of why they’re upset.”
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Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.
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