I couldn’t help chuckling when the Black Lives Matter crowd at the University of Missouri wailed that the Paris terrorist attacks had bumped them from the headlines. Revolutionary narcissism doesn’t take kindly to the dying of the light.
But that’s what it deserves, especially in the guise of Black Lives Matter. This 2-year-old movement didn’t arise from the police shooting of Michael Brown, as many people assume, but from the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the slaying of Trayvon Martin.
Black Lives Matter attracts zealots who cut and paste their version of truth – the Big Lie. Like the 1960s-era Black Panthers, of which it purports to be the successor, BLM is a reason-free zone.
And like other impromptu social-justice movements, BLM feeds on the gullibility of young people of swept up in the passions of the moment. Alas, the Great Awakening that they were mere pawns comes too late for some.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Even President Obama, who should know better, has anointed Black Lives Matter, as has the Democratic National Committee.
They are two disappointing examples of how far into the grasp of the radical left so many Americans have moved. Think about it: Only a few years ago, who would have believed that people in high places could endorse a violent, revolutionary movement that decries the American Experiment as one thriving “on the brutal exploitation of people of color”?
Or that our “corrupt democracy” was “built on indigenous genocide and chattel slavery”? Or that American blacks are “de-humanized” and essentially used for police target practice?
Today’s universities are fertile ground for such rhetoric. In fact, it’s not exaggerating to say that these “young Robespierres,” as The Wall Street Journal calls them, are the products of dragons’ teeth sown 50 years ago.
That is, they are the spawn of 1960s radicals whose mindset rules at so many institutions of higher learning – though a critic might dispute the learning part. Too much of what passes for learning today consists of identity studies and other vapid grievance courses grounded in Marxism, the breakfast of champions for BLMers.
As a graduate of Mizzou’s school of journalism, I was shocked to see adjunct professor Melissa Click, a feisty, hard-core feminist and BLM disciple, calling for “muscle” to keep journalists out of a “media-free zone” on the quad. So much for the First Amendment at one of the world’s premier journalism schools. It was a verbal assault that illuminated my worst fears for the future of journalism.
Not all BLM types emulate Robespierre. Less-strident students who nonetheless regard themselves as victims of an oppressive campus climate carry the sobriquet “snowflakes.”
When it gets to the point where a student claims emotional turmoil for having to read the racist, patriarchal U.S. Constitution, you know snowflakes have assumed currency.
Which bring us, as these things usually do, to Duke University, where “Black Lives Matter” popped up on the granite pedestal of founder James B. Duke’s statue on the West Quad. Easily remedied, but the vandalism came on the very day President Richard Brodhead, Provost Sally Kornbluth and Trinity College Dean Valerie Ashby sponsored a campus conversation on the myriad -isms abroad at Duke.
The conversation (have you ever noticed how little conversation actually occurs at these events?) wasn’t on the order of the Black Lives Matter rampage at Dartmouth, where terrified women in the library were denounced as “filthy white b------.” And that was among the milder spittle.
No, at Duke the challenge to authority was an old-fashioned walkout of 60-odd students following a cheerleading empowerment session on the Page Auditorium stage.
The tone of the meeting was the usual: marginalization, racial and gender discrimination, perceived hostility in the student newspaper. Tears were in order. Typically, Brodhead said he felt their pain and would create a hate-bias task force to root out any vestiges of discrimination and intolerance.
I’m sure these kids had legitimate grievances – that’s life. But I wish Brodhead had advised them to get a grip, that everybody’s windshield feels the sting of rocks.
The real world that awaits them, the world of work, expects performance, not tears and in loco parentis. Sorry, kids, but that’s life writ large.
Bob Wilson is a retired journalist who lives in southwest Durham.