#BlackLivesMatter and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in America


On Thursday, November 12 we had the pleasure of hosting a passionate and engaging lecture by Sylvie Laurent (teacher at Sciences Po. and Columbia University) on the #BlackLivesMatter and the legacy of the civil rights movement in the Unites States.

In spite of the worrisome episodes of discrimination and police brutality of the last years, mainstream white America maintains a “pernicious naiveté” on the conditions of most African Americans today. The reluctance to talk about race and its typical meritocratic narrative prevent the US from having a serious and honest debate on the racial discrimination. But #BlackLivesMatter wants things to change. A new generation of militants decided to have a new conversation about race with the mainstream American society. The movement wants to broaden the conversation around state violence, so as to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state. They talk about the ways in which Black lives are deprived of basic human rights and dignity.

The two queer African American girls that initiated the movement turned to one of the many spaces of democracy, the Internet. People soon responded to their call by twitting, protesting, taking to the streets, congregating people despite the violence of the police. Echoing the strategies of the civil rights movement in the 60s, which used television to convey their messages, this new generation masters very well the power of images for the same purpose.

#BlackLivesMatter is more relevant than ever, now that America is experiencing what scholars have defined as The End of the Second Reconstruction, that is a backsliding on the achievement of the civil rights’ victories.

Many are the attempts to discard the movement: from more the more subtle resistance of figures like Oprah Winfrey, to the the more openly hostile ones of Ted Cruz or Ben Carson, just to name a few.

But #BlackLivesMatter represent a new form of leaderless (or leaderfull) activism which may achieve much in the future and overcome the blindness of a great part of the American society. As Martin Luther King said: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals”.
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