is black lives matter a social movement?
People often ask if a political group is a “movement.” In what sense is Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter a movement? In the social sciences, protest movements are often defined by the following:
- A collective action (not a single person, or a group of people acting at once by coincidence)
- Aimed at structural change in society
- Using contentious or non-institutionalized means.
Then, yes, Occupy and Black Lives Matter (and the Tea Party and many others) are clearly protest movements. BLM is, I think, mainly defined by a desire to see a complete overhaul of how police interact with Black communities. And not in a reformist way either. They are willing to be disruptive.
Some people balk at this answer because they have other movements in mind, like the Civil Rights movement. The issue, I think, is that BLM is a very young movement that has not developed the infrastructure of other movements. The CRM took decades to evolve from the early days of the Niagra movement of 1905 to its height in the 1960s. Occupy and the Tea Party are atypical in that they popped up relatively quickly. Normally, movements take years to get off the ground. It is fair, then to say that BLM is a young movement, or an early stage movement, but it is definitely not a mature movement analogous to CRM in the 1960s. Bottom line: BLM is real, but it has a long way to go. Let’s see where it goes.
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