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In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, human rights activist  Malcolm X voiced his deep-seated distrust of  what he referred to as a faction of the “white liberal”:

“The liberal elements of whites are those who have perfected themselves to the Negro as a friend of the Negro. Getting sympathy of the Negro, getting the allegiance of the Negro, and getting the mind of the Negro. Then the Negro sides with the white liberal, and the white liberal use the Negro against the white conservative,” he said. “…white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but at least they don’t try to hide it.”

The core of Malcom’s arguments rest on the idea that a section of white liberal America is more than anything fixated on their triumph over their conservative opponent – to the degree it allows them to misconstrue the struggles of Black America to fit their own agenda. This mission is not one rooted in justice, but in conquest.

Misconstruing Black narratives to fit the agenda and comfort of white liberal America cements white liberals and their values as the standard of moral objectivity. This practice is seen in the way the Democratic party creates an illusion of progressive policies for Black Americans to garner votes from the community, while simultaneously pacifying their white liberal voter base. Allowing a group to act as a moral gatekeeper is a prerogative which disavows white liberals of being held accountable for their racist policies, while championing themselves as “progressive” on race-based issues.

This was seen in 1972 when President-elect Joe Biden, then Senator Biden supported desegregation of schools yet actively pushed to prevent Black students from being bused to predominantly white schools. Biden has also pledged to reach a target of 100% clean energy, a stark contrast to President Trump who pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement.  Yet his nominee choice for secretary of energy Ernest Moinz, who served in the same role under the Obama administration, was formerly a consultant for oil and gas company BP. Although the Democratic party advocates the need for environmental reform, there remains a revolving door between the fossil industry and the US government, disavowing any real progress. And people of color pay the price.

White liberal America has hijacked movements and ideologies in the US and made it so that without their stamp of approval, these movements are rejected as too radical. This was seen clearly with the Black Panthers in the late 1960s. Members chose to legally arm themselves for self-defense, standing in stark contrast to the “non-violent” civil rights protests which came earlier. The New York Times’ reflected this hesitation in their coverage of the movement at the time. The publication headlined a story about a Black Panther protest against a California Gun Bill with “Armed Negroes Protest Gun Bill,” and falsely referring  to the Black Panthers as the “antiwhite Black Panther party.”

White liberal media during the same time often juxtaposed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  with the more “radical” Malcolm X, overlooking how King celebrated militancy among Black Americans and had socialist beliefs. King was simply more palatable to the white audience. Even now, white media constantly wrings its hands over “appropriate” ways to protest police brutality.

As Black Lives Matter gained steam, white liberal America split into two camps: those who promised to be active allies and those who wanted to shift the movement to counter conservatives.

The goal is to create a space where change seems to occur but does not disturb established institutions. As Noam Chomsky said in How The World Works, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion…while all the time the presupposition of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

As peaceful protests erupted after the murders of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, both cases failed to prosecute the police officers involved. From 2014 to 2020, nine high profile cases saw mass protests against police killings, of which six saw no prosecution for police officers involved. Breonna Taylor’s case in 2020 also saw no murder charge for any of the police officers involved. Although peaceful protests are seen as an acceptable form of outrage by the Democratic party, riots in the face of institutional inaction are not.

As Black Lives Matter gained steam, white liberal America split into two camps: those who promised to be active allies and those who wanted to shift the movement to counter conservatives.

Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the country after George Floyd’s murder in the summer of 2020. Some protestors chose to riot as a means of resistance. Conservative politicians openly dismissed the movements and highlighted the riots as an instrumental reason to reject Black Lives Matter. “They’re not protesters. Those aren’t pro — those are anarchists, they’re agitators, they’re rioters, they’re looters,” Trump said about protests in D.C.  

Biden himself supported Black Lives Matter but openly condemned the riots. As other Black activists contextualized the looting and rioting as the byproduct of frustration, Biden simply brushed off the larger issues saying “Rioting is not protesting” and “Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?”

This in and of itself is reflective of the very sentiments Malcom X expressed. As the conservative elements openly condemned the movement with Trump stating “Black Lives Matter is a Marxist organization,” the Democratic party took a more insidious approach. Black voters to Biden in the 2020 presidential election and Black voter registration rose following Black Lives Matter protests in June. Thus it became crucial for The Democratic party to continue to publicly embrace Black Lives Matter.

The Democrats have paid lip service to supporting Black Lives Matter – with <the party officially endorsing the movement on their platform – but refuse to challenge the institutions which are necessary for effective change. As progressive congresswoman Alexanderia Ocasio-Cortez said in response to Democrats losing seats in the election, “there was already finger-pointing that this was progressives’ fault and that this was the fault of the Movement for Black Lives.” Demoratic House Majority leader James Clyburn stated that the “sloganeering” of the Black Lives Matter protests costs seats for Democrats.

Biden’s comments on rioting and linking it to “radical socialism” are also telling as they mirror Trump calling Black Lives Matter “Marxist.” Both politicians created confines in what is deemed as an “acceptable” form of protest, with Biden insinuating that Black Americans rioting is akin to the radical left and thus an unacceptable stance for the Democratic party to support.

Democratic party has failed to uphold policies which support their claim that they serve as an antithesis to the blatantly bigoted stance taken by their Republican counterparts.

Another aim of Black Lives Matter is working towards defunding the police. For many this means reallocating resources towards community based services which assist in mental health, addiction and housing by curbing astronomical police budgets. Biden has openly denounced this goal, instead promising to increase the police budget via Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) which would deliver $300 million in grants to municipalities to hire additional police officers. Interestingly enough, COPS was a byproduct of the controversial 1994 Crime Bill, which Biden was instrumental in creating.

The 1994 Crime Bill, which until a few years ago Biden called the “1994 Biden Crime Bill,” ushered in an era of mass incarceration in the US and created policies which destabilized the fabric of many communities of color. The 1994 Crime Bill created longer sentencing, more prisons, and harsher policing, while of course increasing police presence in inner city areas. The Bill offered “$30 billion to help hire 100,000 new police officers” and had “$12.5 billion for prison construction to states and required inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.”

Thus the Democratic party has failed to uphold policies which support their claim that they serve as an antithesis to the blatantly bigoted stance taken by their Republican counterparts. The Democratic Party’s “progressive” slogans begin to erode in the face of the policies implemented by the party. Biden defended and continues to defend the 1994 Crime Bill, stating “by and large what it really did, it restored American cities,” without properly acknowledging the effects it would have on communities of color, especially the Black community.

Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect, holds a more mixed track record on criminal prosecution for people of color. But she also continues to uphold institutions which would systematically target Black Americans. Her term as California’s Attorney General in 2011-2017 saw her office working with the Justice Department to make decisions that were detrimental to people of color. Kamala Harris’s office actively resisted the release of non-violent prisoners, citing the state’s dependence on cheap prison labor. Her office also refused to prosecute various killings by police officers. Harris has since distanced herself from decisions made by her office and currently calls herself a “reformist.”

The overall claim that the Democratic party supports the Black Lives Matter movement and progessive policies for people of color do not seem to translate into reality. Increasing police budgets and police presence stands in direct opposition to the outlined goals of Black Lives Matter. The Democratic Party Platform of 2020 also omitted policies for defunding the police, but made sure to mention that the criminal justice system has “overpoliced and underserved Black and Latino communities.” The Pew Research Center found that 86% of overall Black Americans, 77% of Hispanics and 91% of white Democrats support Black Lives Matter. This is indicative of why the  Democratic Party uses the movement as a talking point to gain support from white liberal voters and an illusion of change to gain votes from communities of color.

The difference between Republicans and the Democrats seems to wane as one is more brazen in their support for increasing policing and renouncing riots, while the latter promises change with progressive policy that never comes to pass.