Black Lives Matter had a major resurgence this summer as people across the country took to the streets to protest the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans at the hands of police. Politicians, like Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris, threw their weight behind fighting racial injustice at the 2020 Democratic convention. As POLITICO reported: “Biden’s campaign worked with progressives on police reform in the weeks leading up to the convention. On the first night, the virtual gathering focused on racial injustice, featuring a roundtable with the nominee on police violence and speeches on racism and inequality…”
But some critics have questioned their follow-through, even going so far as to question whether the Democrats’ plan will make any difference. In a Washington Post Article, Columnist Jerry Brewer writes “But what’s [Joe Biden’s] plan? The symbols and slogans [from the 2020 Democratic convention] amounted to little more than the NBA painting Black Lives Matter on the court. Nice gesture. But the game goes on.”
While Black Lives Matter has an established political presence, will it have an impact on Election day? Genesis Jefferson of the Loyolan's Election 2020 team spoke with social activist and president of LMU’s Belles Service Organization Mikayla Gingrey about Black Lives Matter and the interplay between social justice and politics.
Genesis Jefferson (G.J.): How do politics and social justice interact?
Mikayla Gingrey (M.G.): Politics and social justice have always had a push and pull effect. Specifically, with presidential elections, politicians cater to the Black demographic [as a way] to get their votes. But they don’t [always] do the real [social justice] work.
However, there are also amazing, [successful interactions between] politics and social justice work. [Representative] John Lewis used his position to truly make a difference for Black lives.
G.J.: How has Black Lives Matter impacted the election and vice versa?
M.G.: Rather than the election impacting the Black Lives Matter movement, I’d say that the Black Lives Matter movement impacted the election.
During a protest in Washington D.C. last June, President Trump [tear gassed Black Lives Matter protesters] to hold up a bible out in front of a church. I think that moment was a big wake-up call to a lot of people. It showed that Trump doesn’t understand what the Black Lives Matter movement is about. I think that hurt [President Trump politically] in a lot of ways.
But then you see [the] former vice president saying that Black lives do matter and he’s done multiple interviews and had conversations with George Floyd’s family. This is good, but it’s not enough, because Black Lives Matter is looking for the follow-through.
The Black Lives Matter movement has forced these conversations onto the national presidential debate stage. This is one way in which social justice directly affects politics.
G.J.: How has President Trump affected the Black Lives Matter movement?
M.G.: The Black Lives Matter movement is about education. But President Trump wanted to ban a lot of the racial sensitizing programs. [According to Trump, they teach] Americans to hate America.
But as someone who leads conversations around social justice, learning about America’s racial [issues and injustices] isn’t about hate, it’s about becoming aware. I think this is something President Trump has missed throughout his entire time in office.
G.J.: How do social justice advocates combat disinformation?
M.G.: People latch onto buzz words. If President Trump [falsely] says something happened, and his followers agree with him, then honestly, it’s very hard to combat that. It’s hard to argue with someone who’s not basing their opinions off facts.
So please go beyond your Instagram and Twitter feed [to find information]. Go to an actual news source, do your own research and come to your own conclusion. Even if it’s not the most popular, at least you found true facts to back up your [claims].
G.J.: Does voting impact the Black Lives Matter movement?
M.G.: Yes, it does! Who you vote for [says] a lot. It’s not just the president on the ballot. You’re voting for representatives, senators, governors — this is the time to use the power [Black] people fought for back in the day, and if they fought for it, we should use it.