Just five days into Black History Month, Sajid Javid – the current backbench Conservative MP and Britain’s first-ever BAME Chancellor of the Exchequer – has claimed that Black Lives Matter are “not a force for good”.
Speaking at a virtual event for the Conservative Party Conference, Javid – who had also served as the first BAME Home Secretary – stated he was not sympathetic to Black Lives Matter as an organisation: “I think it’s a sort of neo-Marxist organisation that wants to overthrow capitalism.”
Whilst he provided no evidence for his claim, he is likely referring to the Twitter account, verified under the name Black Lives Matter UK, which have posted videos about capitalism and the unequal experience of black Britons in such a society.
This group are not an official outlet of the Black Lives Matter movement, which rose to prominence in 2013 following the acquittal of the police officer who killed unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in the United States. What began as a hashtag to draw contrast between the experiences of African Americans and white Americans in the United States developed into a global movement in fighting against racial prejudice.
BLM gained greater prominence earlier in 2020 when, following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officers, protests sprang up throughout the world under the banner of Black Lives Matter.
However, BLM is not a single group or organisation, rather a decentralised and organic movement that tends to organise locally; therefore any statement that the ‘organisation’ is a “neo-Marxist” organisation is a mischaracterization of the movement – and a potentially deliberate one.
Whilst Javid did state that “I think the movement of people whether through demonstrating or other ways of fighting for racial justice, of course, that is important”, showing a clear alignment with what BLM are doing, he pushed an alternative and incorrect view to the hundreds of Conservative Party members who watched his conference speech.
He also spoke of his belief that BLM wishes to “get rid of the police” repeating an often deliberately misconstructed statement about the Defund the Police movement, which – although clumsily named – wishes to direct funding towards community projects to reduce criminal behaviour, as an alternative to enforcement policing; this often requires the expansion of police budgets, as some have endorsed in the United States, where DTP originated.
For the country’s first BAME Chancellor to demonise a protest movement aimed at recognising the history of racial oppression and injustice in the United Kingdom – specifically towards the black community – is a depressing state of affairs, especially just five days into Black History Month.
Whilst BLM has made significant progress in the fight for social justice in the United Kingdom – with significant inroads into tackling racism within sport and greater awareness of whitewashing throughout British history – coming out of the movement, there is still significant progress that still has to be made.
Before his statements on Black Lives Matter, Javid spoke of “work to do” in tackling racial injustice in the United Kingdom; in that, he couldn’t be more right.