The Trouble with BLM “as an Idea”

Recently there was the case of the Virginia Tech soccer player—Kiersten Hening—who refused to bend the knee for Black Lives Matter (BLM), to the outrage of her coach, who ended up benching her. She sued, and won. Good for her for refusing, and good for her for getting the bullies at her university to cough up a hundred grand.

She is a case study, however—in the same way that Kyle Rittenhouse was—of someone who, having survived the wrath of those who specialize in mass narrative alignment, tries to make a nuanced distinction between BLM the organization and black lives matter as an “idea.” 

The Blaze reports:

While Hening indicated in her lawsuit that she “supports social justice and believes … black lives matter,” she “does not support BLM the organization,” taking issue with its “tactics and core tenets of its mission statement, including defunding the police.”

The point is that, after being publicly smeared as a racist—which can, of course, be life-destroying—the attempt must be made to clarify and distinguish so as to prove one’s commitment to social orthodoxies.

On one hand, this capitulation does make a bit of sense. When one’s character is publicly attacked, there is the strong instinctual urge—often accompanied by good will—to save face, to side-step the debilitating narrative that one’s act of resistance was “racist” behavior.

But with BLM, as with many other dominant social themes, the problem is not just the organization; it actually is the idea—or more significantly, the function of the idea in the continued transformation of Western society. The “idea” is actually a political tool and plays a political role in molding the priorities of the mass mind, crafting political instincts, and educating people to have a certain prescribed understanding of history and society.

The ideological enforcers of the age can use attempts to distinguish between the organization called BLM and the idea of “black lives matter” as a way of keeping everyone—even courageous resistors—within the boundaries of authorized opinion: that to be a good American is to confess a specific series of views related to race and the American socio-political order.

BLM as an organization represents the attempt by the left to radicalize Americans toward their political agenda. And the reaction by conservatives to this well-funded push is to arise and defend the strictures and values of 20th-century American liberalism. Leftists, being far more politically savvy than most conservatives (who rarely comprehend what is happening in the restructuring of power dynamics), understand that the way to “march through the institutions” is to keep the opposition committed not to some positive vision of an older America but to the apolitical stance of liberalism: in other words, where there is no clash of group interests, there is no friend-enemy distinction, and we can all just get along.

This artificial universalism is a product of the therapeutic state. The very fact that we are asked to affirm or deny whether black lives matter serves a catechetical purpose. In Old America, just as in the pre-Americanized West more generally, it would have made absolutely no sense to even consider this question. People didn’t think in such abstract ways about particularistic questions. The answer to whether black lives matter is not that “white lives matter (too)” or even that “all lives matter” the reality is that particular people and particular groups matter to particular peoples based on particular circumstances.

The trouble with “black lives matter” is that it is a manufactured abstraction produced by the therapeutic state. It is not an organic impulse; it is an artifact of the Regime’s need for narrative-crafting, myth-making, and ideological conformity. Very few people, until the latter half of the 20th century, thought in terms of political universals. A specific black person or black family could and did matter in the context of a specific community; but nobody thought about whether blacks as a category of the mind mattered in an abstract way. This shift exemplifies the transformation of American thinking from particularism to universalism.

When one rushes to affirm that black lives matter, one is giving a sort of sanction to what has been called the “Civil Rights Regime” in America. One is affirming the right of the narrative-crafters to operate on a certain representation of American history, to move forward on the restructuring of American society with race playing a rationalizing cover, and for political power-players to advance an agenda that is at odds with the real interests of legacy Americans.

Black lives matter, as an idea, is a vehicle that carries within it the very transformative energies and instincts that have torn down the pillars of an older American way. It is not truly some sort of moral litmus test; rather, it is a political manipulation, and it functions to bring all into conformity with the visions of madmen.

If the right is ever going to have any meaningful presence in confronting our liberal establishment or the ascendent left, it’s going to have to first rediscover the particularistic impulse. The right must ignore—or embrace—accusations of “tribalism” and think about the needs and necessities of particular persons and people-groups. We cannot confront the neutered center or the radical left by adopting their abstractions about race … or anything else.

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