A new poll found a sharp contrast between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement.
When asked overall, 45 percent of registered voters said they approve of the Black Lives Matter movement, compared to 42 percent who disapprove, 13 percent who were not sure and 2 percent who gave no answer.
But according to the poll, conducted this month by NBC News and SurveyMonkey, there is a great disparityamong political parties. Only 15 percent of Republicans approve of BLM, while 70 percent disapprove. Meanwhile, 73 percent of Democrats approve, while just 15 percent disapprove.
Race relations were brought back to the forefront after the back-to-back shooting deaths of Black men by police. On July 5 Alton Sterling was killed outside a convenience store in Louisiana, and on July 6 Philando Castile was killed during a traffic stop in Minnesota. Both deaths were recorded on cell phones. On July 7 five Dallas police officers were killed during what began as a peaceful protest against these deaths. The shooter said he wanted to target white cops.
Demonstrations have since taken place in states all across the country. The three tragedies also sparked a nationwide discussion on Black Lives Matter and its impact on relations between police officers and Black citizens.
The survey results point to a trend in Americans’ views on civil rights activists and what their cause means. A poll conducted in August 1966 found 44 percent of people had a highly unfavorable view of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A separate poll taken that same year found that 50 percent of white people believed Dr. King was hurting, not helping, civil rights.
However, in 2011, nearly fifty years later, only 1 percent of respondents had a highly unfavorable view of him, compared to 69 percent with a highly favorable view. And today, Dr. King has his own national holiday.
Will the same pattern occur today Just as many Americans did not approve of Dr. King and thought his activism would do more bad than good, similar sentiments echo today about BLM. Over the weekend, for instance, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani echoed Bull Connor and George Wallacewhen hedescribed Black Lives Matter as “inherently racist.”
“Black lives matter. White lives matter. Asian lives matter. Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American and it’s racist,” he said. As a reader on our website commented, however, saying “all lives matter” in criticism to BLMis like protesting that”all cancers matter” at a Susan G. Komen Foundation rally.
But many parallels can be drawn between Dr. King’s fight for social justice, which is now widely respected and held to a high standard, and the work done and beliefs held by Black Lives Matter activists.
One common point made to separate BLM’s work from that of Dr. King is that Dr. King strongly advocated for nonviolent demonstrations, while Black Lives Matter has organized many protests following the deaths of Black men by police. However, Dr. King encouraged people to take strong action against injustices, as noted in his 1968 speech “The Other America”:
But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.
The goals set by the BLM movement align with Dr. King’s description of riots as “the language of the unheard.” While he always encouraged nonviolence, Dr. King did not support taking no action and standing idly by.
Like Dr. King, BLM as a group has said they do not condone violence and released a statement distancing itself from the Dallas shooter.
“Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it,” the group said. “Yesterday’s attack was the result of the actions of a lone gunman. To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring a better world for all of us.”
‘The urgency of the movement’
Questions have also arisen about Black Lives Matter’s strong focus on police brutality against Blacks. But Dr. King made strong statements about this too, as in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech:
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “when will you be satisfied” We can never be satisfied as long as the negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.
In this same speech, Dr. King also stressed not ignoring the importance of civil rights.
“It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment,” he said. “And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will neither be rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”
And those who support the Black Lives Matter movement today have expressed strikingly similar sentiments. President Barack Obama said that even in the face of the tragic shooting in Dallas, Americans “cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid” and pointed to the deeply embedded roots of the problem.
“We can’t simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism,” the president said. “We also know that centuries of racial discrimination, of slavery and subjugation and Jim Crow, they didn’t simply vanish with the end of lawful segregation.”