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OpEd: Dear Roland C. Warren, You're Wrong on Black Lives Matter

A response to Roland Warren's article in the Washington Times pertaining to the Black Lives Matter Movement and the agenda to erase Black fathers.
National demonstration: No More Austerity, No to Racism
A man with the words 'Black Lives Matter' written on his back seen at the front line ahead of the march that took place in London on July 16.David Mbiyu / Corbis via Getty Images

Dear Mr. Warren,

I am writing you in response to your recent article in the Washington Times pertaining to the Black Lives Matter Movement, and, according to you, its agenda to erase the existence, necessity, and contributions of black fathers. This is a claim that is at best misinformed and misguided and at worst dubious to the point of being malicious.

The crux of your contention comes from the twelve guiding principles on the Black Lives Matter website. Specifically, you cite the “black villages” principle which states, “we are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially 'our’ children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.”

As you put it “... if you objectively read these principles, you will quickly notice that most of them have nothing to do with the issues facing the black community, and certainly not the black men and boys that the group has used as 'martyrs' to gain a national voice.

"Moreover, as you read the principles, you will not find a single reference to black men and boys, except for 'trans brothers,' which are men who want to be considered women.”

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There are several clear issues with this statement from both a fundamental and ideological standpoint. Firstly, you state that most of these principles do not address issues directly facing the black community. This is plainly ridiculous. If principles such as restorative justice, the plight of black women, and diversity both within and outside of our community aren’t “black issues” I have to ask sir, what are?

Secondly, the idea that Black Lives Matter uses dead black men as martyrs is also patently absurd. The movement began with the death of Trayvon Martin. From that point on the face of black death at the hand of white supremacy has been almost exclusively male and black. This phenomenon can't be solely attributed to the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Black Lives Matter supporters at the Peoples Assembly demonstration: No More Austerity - No To Racism - Tories Must Go, on? Saturday July 16th in London, United Kingdom.Mike Kemp / In Pictures via Getty Images

The male-centric focus on black death is arguably the result of the representation of black men in this country--specifically that of black men being dangerous. This dynamic has made the likes of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown debatable figures regarding them as deserving of their fates. In fact, conversations about black death have been so male-centric that the hashtag #SayHerName became necessary as a means to remind America as a whole that black women, both cisgender and trans, were dying in a similar fashion.

Lastly, and most glaringly, even your fundamental understanding of the trans community is faulty. You write “you will not find a single reference to black men and boys, except for 'trans brothers, which are men who want to be considered women.'” The phrase “trans brothers” refers to men who were born women, not the other way around.

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Furthermore the fact that you use the phrase “want to be considered” makes it wholly evident that you discredit how the trans community sees themselves, and instead discuss trans lives as something elective. This matter is very important because it can only shade your perception of a movement that was, in fact, begat from a feminist/womanist/queer perspective. Part of the failing of your stance is that you seem to seek a straight male dominant voice from a movement that is unapologetically female and queer.

Worse than all of this is how you proceed to make an issue like police brutality a problem created by the black community. You use what you perceive as the erasure of black fathers by Black Lives Matter to espouse on the plight of single black mothers and black on black crime

You have made yourself a prop for every white conservative, supremacist and racist who seeks to devalue not only the movement but black men and women as a whole.

You take painful measures to make leaps in logic and understanding that are both deceptive and dangerous. You mention a number of statistics (none of which you care to site) without nuance or understanding of larger societal paradigms.

Among the statistics you use to bolster your point was, "today, only 34 percent of black children — down from 67 percent in 1960 — are raised in homes with married fathers and mothers.” You subtly make the inference that unmarried means something less than committed which does not reflect the world we live in.

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The truth is that the rate of marriage in America has reached historic lows. The presentation that black people are getting married less as a black problem, or for that matter a problem at all, is misleading. The truth is that many young couples either don’t see the value in marriage or prefer to get married later in life.

You also write, "moreover, nearly 50 percent of black children live in single mother homes. In 1960, only 20 percent of black children did.” Again Mr. Watson, your framing of this statistic neglects to encompass the information with any understanding outside of blame and shame.

Hundreds protested at a Black Lives Matters peace march in Sheffield, UK, on 22 July 2016, to show their solidarity with the victims of police violence in the USA.Gail Orenstein / NurPhoto via Getty Images

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violance one in three women will be the victim of domestic violence and one out of five will be hurt severely. These rates are even higher for black women. Also vitally important in all of this is the fact that black women are now among the most highly educated people in the country. I don’t know about you Mr. Warren, but I would gladly accept a higher rate of single black mothers in return for safer, more highly educated black women.

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Your most disappointing argument of all however, has to be that “the 2013 FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that black offenders killed 90 percent of black victims. The vast majority of victims and offenders are black men. Indeed, it’s the fatherless killing the fatherless.”

This is by far the most rank of all possible arguments for anything involving being black in America, particularly by a black man in 2016. It is an argument that, to be frank, doesn’t deserve the time necessary to debunk it. Instead I point you to every article ever written about the myth of black on black violence and say shame on you sir.

“The bottom line is that the Black Lives Matter movement sees no role for black men other than media-hyped props to promote an agenda that excludes and undermines them. As a black man, I find being used this way destructive, offensive and familiar. You see, for centuries the blood of black men has been used to advance the agenda and fortunes of others. And sadly, the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement are the latest to adopt this pernicious strategy. They seek to deny black men the right and honor that so many have died for — to be good husbands to their wives and good fathers to their children.”

To make a statement like this is to ignore the black women whose laps black men have rested in and shoulders upon which we have stood. Your suggestion that this particular movement and its founders are using black men as props is loaded with a sad irony, considering that for much of the black man’s history in America what little control he had was typically over black women.

You have elected to pick a fight with a movement, which for the entirety of its brief existence, has been extremely vocal in its defense of black men and boys. This is equally confusing and insulting. Especially when you consider that we might not have otherwise heard of most of the men who have been highlighted by this movement without its efforts.

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Lost in all of this is that while you write about black men being used as props by Black Lives Matter, you have made yourself a prop for every white conservative, supremacist and racist who seeks to devalue not only the movement but black men and women as a whole. In the course of your writing this article you have become the “voice of reason.”

You are the single voice that helps negate the pained voices of millions of black Americans fighting to prove that the systemic racism and violence towards blacks, regardless of their sexual or gender identity, is very real and very dangerous. In the course of trying to expose the exploitation of black men you have positioned yourself at the front of the line for the exact same treatment.

Do better Mr. Warren… Do better.