Black Lives Matter co-founder says Democrats ‘dragged their feet’ on racial justice
Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founder Ayọ Tometi said President Joe Biden’s White House still had “a lot of work to do” and Democrats “dragged their feet” on issues important to the organization .
“I think our administration has a long way to go,” said Tometi, who created Black Lives Matter alongside Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors in 2013, said News week at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. “I know he has a long way to go.”
Biden has pushed for police and voting rights reform, but his proposals have stalled in Congress, with the Republican opposition a major obstacle due to the slim Democratic majority in each chamber. Debates erupted around the notion of police funding, a phrase that has caused divisions of opinion in the United States.
“I know the progress has not been fast enough,” Biden told the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington in October, Reuters reported.
In a September statement, Biden spoke of taking executive action on police reform which he said would honor “the name and memory of George Floyd,” whose death sparked major protests from the BLM after he was killed in an arrest last year.
Biden added that “we need legislation to ensure lasting and meaningful change.”
However, despite the national and global influence of the BLM – Tometi claims it is now the “greatest movement in the world” – it apparently lacks substantial relationships with those who hold political power in America.
“The lines of communication must be open,” Tometi said of contacts with the administration and other figures in power. “Some of us have had a little bit of access, but overall we haven’t had the kind of access you might think.”
dragging its feet
Tometi acknowledged that the problems facing black Americans “are not problems that one party can solve”, but also accused the Democratic Party of being “slow” and “dragging their feet”.
“If people want to be really honest – and I’m going to be really honest – our movement started where there was a black president in office, really,” Tometi said.
“And yes, it has grown, sure under Trump because there has been so much retaliation and backlash towards us. But certainly, I think it serves as a reminder that we did not emerge. at a time when there was a face that was white. “
This is important, she said, because “it shows you how rooted the system is in racism.”
“How deep is the ideology that even with a black president,” Tometi continued, “even with an Oprah Winfrey or a Michael Jordan or one of those black celebrities – and we have the blackest elect in all time in history, we have black actors and actresses and all that stuff — all of that still doesn’t amount to justice for the average everyday black person in the United States.
“And so we miss it when we think it’s just that. The Democratic Party is not right. The Republican Party is certainly not right.”
Tometi urged the administration to “stand by our side when it comes to the various laws and policies we defend. These laws which are explicitly anti-racist.”
One of BLM’s proposals is to redirect the money spent on the military and police “to our communities, to invest in our communities, to invest in the health system, to invest in climate justice, to invest in our businesses”.
While such calls continue to be made by activists to redirect police funding to other areas, public opinion appears to be less favorable.
Minneapolis voters rejected a proposal that would have seen its police department replaced by a new Department of Public Safety earlier in November.
Pew Research polls showed support for cutting police funding declined between 2020 and 2021.
In a poll from June 16-22, 2020, 12% of those polled said policing spending in their area should be cut significantly and 14% decreased a bit. When asked more than a year later, between September 13 and 19, 2021, the numbers had dropped to 6% and 9% respectively.
Likewise, in 2020, 11% said police funding should be significantly increased, but that figure rose to 21% in the 2021 results.
Work at surface level is not enough
Looking to the future, Tometi said she feels an “incredible sense of accomplishment” because of the scope of the movement, but substantial change now must come from the attention BLM has drawn to the issues that he campaigns – and that takes power.
“I guess the most frustrating part is that we always need power, right? People think only surface work is enough. And it’s just about diversity or a gesture. symbolic here or there, ”she said.
“But they don’t recognize all the time that it has to be with substance. It’s not just symbolic action. It has to be substance. And everyone who talks about it has to walk it, don’t is this not ?
“And I find that so often we have a lot of people talking a lot and not so much walking.”
Tometi said that broad social media support doesn’t necessarily coincide with real-world change:
“People are ready to retweet or post or something, but behind the screen. Or when you are at home or in the office, when you are on the street, how do you treat each other?
“And not only that, how do you participate in institutions that tell another story? Institutions that support Black Lives Matter, institutions that are explicitly anti-racist, not just neutral, but which actively work and educate their policies to be anti-racist.
“So for me that’s the biggest challenge. Are people prepared to do the job for an extended period of time? “
She continued, “The truth is, we didn’t get here overnight. Yes, there are quick fixes for some things, but not everything will be a quick fix. Transforming institutions, transforming societies, that is. is a job that must be done day in, day out for years.
“It’s not just a quick hashtag trend and then we’re done. So I think for me that’s the challenge we’re facing.
“Are these companies, these governments, are they going to stay the course? I hope so, but the accountability along the way has to be there to keep them on course. I’m very clear about that.
“We have to be able to strengthen our power so that we can also hold people to account.”
Justice and dignity
Regarding short-term goals for BLM, Tometi said there was still a range of overarching goals. “There are so many goals and at the same time it feels like there aren’t any. Ultimately, the goal is for black people to do justice,” she said. declared.
“Dignity, so just basic dignity, the ability for people to live a life of peace, of joy, of health, of community, with their loved ones, these things are quite simple.”
But she also referred to concrete political action underway – a guaranteed basic income program in Los Angeles – that BLM would like to see rolled out elsewhere in the United States.
“I think programs like this are incredibly important, not just for the black community, but for the communities, period, who have suffered because of the pandemic, but who have probably struggled before that,” he said. Tometi said.
“And so sometimes you just have to invest, give, put your money where your values are and demonstrate that these people deserve to have the resources, to put food on the table, to make ends meet.
“Our government has access to our taxpayers’ money, has access to what we have contributed over the years… We need to start reshaping the public safety net, which for too long in the United States has simply been gutted . “
Tometi said police budgets should instead be “invested in our ideas, in our community, in infrastructure, in our neighborhoods, so that we have the capacity not only to survive, but we really need to be in. a place we finally thrive. “
“So that’s my hope,” Tometi said. “And so these are the types of policies that I want to see more of in our communities. And we’re seeing, you know, we’re seeing pockets of that happening, but we definitely need some more.”
News week contacted the White House and the DNC for comment.