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Understanding Black Lives Matter Utah: What the movement represents

Sep 21, 2020 16h21 ● By Drew Crawford

By Drew Crawford | [email protected]

So much has happened since the beginning of COVID-19 that it can be hard to keep track of all of the change that is occurring, let alone the social problems that are being addressed. 

A growing chorus of people are opening their eyes and becoming aware that Black Lives Matter, while others have begun to casually participate in the movement, going to the occasional rally and posting about racial injustice on social media. Yet, others express fear and concern online, warning that the organization is Marxist and has intentions to destroy the nuclear family. 

So, what is the truth about the organization Black Lives Matter? 

Lex Scott originally got involved with the movement when Eric Garner died at the hands of New York City police officers from being put in a chokehold in 2014. 

Before that, Scott had run the Black Lives Matter Facebook page for Utah a year previous to Garner’s death. At the beginning, it was an informal group of people that identified with raising awareness about the importance of Black lives, and the violence that they faced at the hands of police officers. 

Scott would hold meetings during this time that went largely unattended. According to her, there would be occasional organized protests, but nothing on the scale of what has happened since recently.

When Patrick Harmon was shot and killed by Salt Lake police in 2017, The Utah Chapter of Black Lives matter was born. Since that time, the group has received relatively small public recognition, but that changed with the death of George Floyd. 

Over the last couple of months, the Facebook group has seen an unprecedented flurry of activity. 

There are many things that Scott, the chapter head of Black Lives Matter Utah, wishes that potential members knew about becoming formally involved with the organization and what it means to be a member and joining the organization if you are white. 

“You go to our website and you fill out  join the chapter form, and then you will receive daily updates of events, protests, outreach initiatives,” Scott said.

“The first thing that people need to understand is that we need to fight for every marginalized group that is out there. The second thing is that we need to center Black and Brown voices in our protests, in our initiatives and in things that we do,” Scott emphasized. “If you’re a white person you need to attend a training and understand your place in a Black Lives movement, because every time that we get a rush of new members, we have the white allies that don’t understand the movement and it causes problems.”

In addition to doing these things, white people also need to read the book “White Fragility,” and be willing to actively research and understand systematic injustice so that they can have uncomfortable conversations and be willing to recognize the changes that need to be made. 

“They need to understand that their place in the movement is a place of support in which they need to help dismantle racist systems that continue to oppress Black and Brown people to this day and continue to benefit white people with white privilege to this day.” Scott said that the organization isn’t for white people to quibble about their own interests or thoughts. 

“They need to understand that we will not walk on eggshells for them if they are a white ally and that we aren’t going to be tone policed by them and that they need to come from a place of support.”

Scott said that simply having curiosity about the movement or an increased desire to take action after a shooting doesn’t show commitment to the Black Lives Matter organization. 

“[People] have seen protests across the country. That doesn’t make you a member. Attending a protests for Black Lives Matter doesn’t make you a member. You need to understand the concepts, the principles the mission, the work that we have done, the goals that we are trying to achieve.”

Scott wants those interested to know that the organization has a wide scope and is centered around fighting systematic racism, systematic oppression and police brutality. 

“We are an intersectional organization. That means we fight for Latinx rights, Pacific Islanders, Indigenous, Asian people’s rights, people with disabilities, and the gay community,” Scott said.

Scott is emphatic that Black Lives Matter does not condone or support violent actions or protests.

“You need to understand that we are a peaceful movement. I don’t care what you saw on CNN, I don’t care what you saw on Fox News,” Scott said. “Black Lives Matter protesters across the country have held peaceful protests in every city. The media is going to show you protests that turn violent. In Utah we have been protesting for seven years peacefully. You’re not allowed to destroy property, you’re not allowed to incite violence, and you’re not allowed to even make the implication that you might incite violence or destroy property,” Scott said. 

The Utah Chapter of Black Lives Matter is one of the hundreds of independent chapters that is separate from the national Black Lives Matter Network. The Utah Chapter has different ideologies including movement was Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Darrien Hunt, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin. 

Black Lives Matter Utah is pro-family and does not self-identify as a Marxist organization. 

Besides holding protests, the organization fights for police reform, holds trainings, helps the homeless, and holds camps for Black youth. 

Overall, to Scott, Black Lives Matter is a movement that she has been involved with for years as she works to champion police reform, serve the community and educate others. 

“We believe that Black Lives Matter is a movement like the Civil Rights movement. People are always saying, ‘are you an official chapter?’ And we say, ‘would you walk up to Martin Luther King and say ‘Are you an official chapter of The Civil Rights movement?’ You wouldn’t because it’s a movement.”

To become formally involved with the organization visit The Black Lives Matter Utah webpage at https://www.blacklivesmatterutah.com/

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