Black Lives Matter and the Presidential Primaries

Protestors hold up signs while chanting "Black Lives Matter" during a demonstration against the deaths of two unarmed black m
Protestors hold up signs while chanting "Black Lives Matter" during a demonstration against the deaths of two unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers in New York City and Ferguson, Mo., in Boston, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

In 1857 during a speech captioned "West India Emancipation" the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass said:

"If there is no struggle there is no progress. ...This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it ma be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."

The young leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement are conducting their campaign to awaken America's conscience to the apparent repetitive police shootings of black men in the spirit of the legacy of Frederick Douglass and other 20th Century Civil Rights leaders after him. Martin Luther King, Jr. is perhaps the most pre-eminent.

Since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO a year ago, more than 30 men and a few women have died as a result of police shootings or while in the custody of police. The Black Lives Matter Movement is asking the elemental question: What do the candidates running to become President of the United States, whether Republican, Democrat, Socialist or Independent, propose to do to end the killing of black men by police across our country?

Based on my years or earlier experiences in the Civil Rights Movement whether or not the BLM Movement will be successful will depend upon their consistent commitment to non-violence, their ability to prevent "agents provocateurs" from disrupting their efforts at peaceful protests, and the strategy and tactics ultimately adopted by their Movement.

Confrontational tactics at various events where candidates for president appear, while provoking media publicity, may have limited or no success unless they are based on a strategy that has a real possibility of succeeding. I say this in all humility with a profound desire for the BLM Movement to POLITICALLY succeed.

Part of the political genius of Dr. King's leadership during the Civil Rights Movement struggles of the 1960s was his strategic acknowledgement that no matter how moral, just, and compelling the case was for ending racial segregation in America, there was no way 12-14 percent of the population, Negroes, could impose or mandate that change upon the majority of white people in our country.

His thesis was racial segregation would end only when a majority of 88 percent of the population came to understand that ending racial segregation was in it's self-interest. Dr. King, through his non-violent civil disobedience, made it clear that where there was no justice, there would be no peace.

A parallel and companion tactic was to also reach out and build alliances and coalitions with important white leaders and organizations. Most notable at the time were with leaders from the American Jewish Community.

That was then, the Black Lives Matters Movement is here and now. Maybe today's leaders of the BLM should consider what, if any, of those earlier leadership efforts on the part of Dr. King are applicable to them today? What of his previous strategies and tactics, if any, are irrelevant and inappropriate, today?

In their book, "WHY CIVIL RESISTANCE WORKS: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict" the authors Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephen, after analyzing 323 violent and nonviolent campaigns between 1900 and 2006, concluded,

"...nonviolent resistance campaigns were twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts."

"(N)onviolent campaigns facilitate the active participation of many more people that violent campaigns, thereby broadening the base of resistance and raising the costs to opponents of maintaining the status quo."

Moral outrage is timeless. The BLM Movement needs to decide whether its principal strategic objective is to defeat, embarrass, or publicly disrupt the campaigns of those candidates running for president of the United States; or, instead, to engage them as a potential allies in its struggle to get our nation to finally acknowledge, 24/7, that Black Lives really Matter.