One commonly asked question about this moment in black-led organizing—what some broadly refer to as the Black Lives Matter movement—is what its participants want. What are BLM’s goals, and why, some critics ask, is the movement so reactive, so vocal and visible, only in response to police violence against black people?
Now, anyone with such questions can refer to “A Vision for Black Lives,” which lays out six demands and 40 corresponding policy recommendations to paint a picture of what today’s black activists are fighting for. The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 50 organizations representing black people nationwide, made the policy platform and accompanying website public on August 1. Among the demands are calls for “an end to the criminalization, incarceration, and killing of our people” and “independent Black political power and Black self-determination in all areas of society.”
At both the Democratic and Republican conventions last month, there were plenty of indications that conversations strengthened and sustained by the current movement to end antiblack racism have made it to the national stage. The “Mothers of the Movement”—women whose children were killed by police or vigilantes or who died while in police custody—shared their stories at the Democratic National Convention, making the case that their fight for justice would be in good hands with a Clinton presidency. The previous week, Milwaukee County’s Sheriff David Clarke Jr., a black man, tried to calm the nerves of the largely white audience at the Republican National Convention, assuring them that Donald Trump could restore law and order and put an end to the “anarchy” that BLM inspires.
“A Vision for Black Lives” emphasizes the movement’s independence from party politics and its desire to prioritize solutions that address root causes over the incremental or bipartisan proposals more likely to win a presidential candidate’s support or move through an obstructionist Congress. For example, the nearly 40 policy recommendations include the following (as listed in the group’s August 1 press release):
“Demilitarize law enforcement, end money bail, end deportations, and end the systematic attack against Black youth, and Black trans, gender non-conforming and queer folks.”
“Immediately pass state and federal legislation that requires the U.S. to acknowledge the lasting impacts of slavery, and establish and execute a plan to address those impacts.”
“Democrats and Republicans are offering anemic solutions to the problems that our communities face,” said Marbre Stahly-Butts, a member of the eight-person Movement for Black Lives policy leadership team that steered the collaborative research and writing process over a yearlong period. “We are seeking transformation, not just tweaks.”