Freddy Gray

    What is Black Lives Matter?

    Is it a slogan? A movement? Or a scam?

    What is Black Lives Matter?
    (Photo: Getty)
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    It’s hard not to admire Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter foundation. Under fire over yet another set of revelations that suggest her world-famous anti-racism organisation is in fact little more than a racket, she has admitted she made ‘mistakes’.

    But what else could a poor girl do? An organisation of BLM’s size was simply not equipped for the millions upon millions of dollars it suddenly received in the summer of 2020, when the locked-down world went crazy over the death of George Floyd.

    It was all ‘white guilt money’, says Cullors. She’s absolutely right, of course. In those mad days of 2020, as protests spread and cities burned, nervous corporations threw fortunes at any ‘anti-racism’ charity they could find. For instance, Airbnb split $500k between BLM and the more old-school National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The luggage brand Away gave away a total of $700k to BLM, the NAACP legal defence fund, Color of Change and other groups.

    The giveaway was so frenzied that almost nobody stopped to ask where that money was going. Take a look at BLM’s website in April 2020. There wasn’t a lot going on. The blog had rarely been updated. Its ‘resources’ were devoted to Covid. Its most recent ‘global action’ was taken in early 2019. Under the Programs page, there were two entries. For Arts+Culture, there was ‘The Provocateurs, a video series about black women which was held in 2017. The other programme was ‘Black Futures Month’ which was supposed to be held in February, but the page itself hadn’t even been updated since 2019.

    Little did Cullors and her partners know that they were sitting on a gold mine. The slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’, which had gone somewhat viral in 2014 after the killing of Michael Brown, achieved almost instant global recognition after George Floyd.

    All worldly charity corrupts, overnight global meme charities tend to corrupt absolutely. By late 2020, smaller BLM chapters and spinoff groups were already complaining about BLM’s lack of transparency and lack of support for grassroots organisations.

    Cullors herself seemed to possess an almost supernatural capacity to attract funds. In 2020, she inked an ‘exclusive, multi-year deal’ with Warner Brothers to ‘develop and produce original programming for all platforms including streaming services.’ How much developing and producing has she done since? According to the website IMDB, she was one of four executive producers on a one-hour documentary that came out in August on HBO.

    She, or at least BLM, seem pretty good at spending money, too. She spent $73,000 chartering a private jet. BLM appears to have bought five houses since 2020 for a total of around $12 million. Cullors, who resigned as executive director of BLM last year, has resisted criticism by saying she didn’t take a salary at BLM and instead stresses her role at Dignity and Power Now, another charity she co-founded.

    Dignity and Power Now also has been accused of failing to disclose its donations in full. When it comes to accepting responsibility for her dodgy finances, however, Cullors has exhibited another exceptional talent: an ability to duck. Because, as you probably knew, accounting is racist! In April, Cullors complained that charity transparency laws as ‘triggering’.

    ‘This doesn't seem safe for us… this nonprofit system structure,’ she said. ‘This is, like, deeply unsafe. This is being literally weaponised against us, against the people we work with.’

    In 2021, BLM claimed that the media’s interest in the multiple mansions was white supremacist terrorism: ‘This right-wing offensive not only puts Patrisse, her child and her loved ones in harm’s way, it also continues a tradition of terror by white supremacists against Black activists.’

    Cullors herself, meanwhile, is clearly very upset about what she calls the ‘racist and sexist’ attention given to her multiple properties. She has choked up in interviews, worrying about the safety of her family, which is understandable.

    But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the people behind BLM are using victimhood in order to distract from the suspicion that their charitable cause has become a kind of private slush fund.

    Last week, in response to reports about the group’s purchase of a mansion in California, BLM issued a statement that is worth quoting at length:

    ‘First, this property serves as an opportunity for us as Black people to own our land interest free and unencumbered by any white corporate establishment. It is amazing that anyone would question us for wanting to own property, as the real estate market nationwide has increased in value significantly over the past 18 months. But instead of being lauded as making smart, diversified investment decisions so we can control and define our own destinies, our movement is chastised and vilified. The double standard and embedded racism is clear. Second, this property has served as a safe haven to protect the leaders of our Black nationalist movement. Our leaders and their families, including their children, have been targeted by white supremacists.’

    Instead of being lauded we are vilified! The arrogance of the words is almost mesmerising. No doubt parts of the press are targeting Black Lives Matter. But other big American non-profits are also subjected to plenty of scrutiny, especially when their activities influence politics and rightly so. The Attorney General of New York, for instance, launched a massive campaign to forcibly dissolve the National Rifle Association amid charges of fraud and self-dealing among the group’s executives.

    For all the bad headlines, BLM so far appears to have avoided any serious legal investigation or federal audit. No doubt that’s partly down to its opacity. It’s never been quite clear what Black Lives Matter is. Is it a slogan? A meme? A brand? A movement? A charitable cause? Or a shakedown?

    But it is clear from their statements that BLM and Cullors possess a sense of moral immunity. Their victimhood is their privilege. After all, when so many of the world’s politicians have taken the knee for the hashtag that is effectively their trademark, that puts the group in a powerful position.

    The truth is that, if a charity can hit the right political notes and gather enough ‘engagement’, it can collect huge amounts of money while avoiding accountability. BLM was and perhaps still is a slogan so powerful, so evocative that nobody dares to challenge it. Black Lives Matter. Corruption, in this instance, doesn’t.