“There’s never been a nanosecond in the history of this country that white lives weren’t important.” Michael Harriot explains how the Black Lives Matter movement is being demonized by white supremacists.
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Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Welcome to another episode of theGrio Daily. And I know, I know everybody saw that thing that happened at that rapping shoe salesman’s fashion show when he wore that t-shirt and everybody was talking about it. But we wanted to wait a little bit until the din died down because, again, we don’t want to give any attention to that rapping shoe salesman who sells those ugly shoes. What we want to talk about is the idea behind that. Because that’s what this podcast is like. We don’t talk about people, we don’t talk about things, we talk about ideas. And today we want to talk about the idea behind that t-shirt and why it was so some people say offensive, some people say anti-Black, some people say stupid. But we want to talk about that. And Michael Harriot is a world-famous wypipologist and this is theGrio Daily. The only podcast that will explain why white lives don’t matter.
Michael Harriot [00:01:13] Right. Like so if Black Lives Matter, then what’s wrong with saying that white lives matter? All lives matter? Well, to understand what’s wrong with that, you know, you have to understand the history of Black movements throughout the history of Black movements. You know, we’ve talked in previous episodes about there’s really never been a Black movement that the majority of white people agreed with. Right. Like the majority of white people didn’t agree with ending slavery. Like we had to fight the bloodiest war in the history of the North American continent to end slavery. And I know white people are right now are saying, yeah, but, you know, white people fought to end slavery, nah white people fought to preserve the union against people fighting to continue slavery. There’s a difference. But the abolition movement, again, wasn’t, you know, agreed to by most of the white people who were involved with slavery. Neither was the anti-lynching movement. The NAACP and Ida B. Wells and Black activists everywhere were trying to get Black people or the country to pass an anti-lynching bill. And white feminists wouldn’t do it. Nobody would join the NAACP. And Black activists’ struggle to end extrajudicial murder is basically what lynching is.
Michael Harriot [00:02:46] And so the anti-lynching movement was a was not agreed to by most white people. The same thing with the civil rights movement. Right. Like we can look at polls from the civil rights movement and see that most people thought that the sit-ins were unnecessary. Most people disliked Martin Luther King. Most white people thought that the civil rights protesters were out of line. And there are actual polls that like we’re showing you right now. But. There’s really never been a movement for Black equality or justice or freedom that the majority of this country agreed with. But when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s no different from all of those other previously mentioned movements. Not only do white people disagree with Black Lives Matter, that poll shows this. But for the most part, like all those other movements, they undermined it by vilifying it.
Michael Harriot [00:04:04] That’s why Martin Luther King was called a communist. The civil rights protesters were called Anti America. The anti lynching movement was undermined by the FBI’s COINTELPRO, which was originally conceived to hunt communists. All of these movements were not just demonized by white people, but they were undermined because white people disagreed with them. Which brings us to White Lives Matter. And to understand why that t shirt is is offensive, but historically important. You have to go back to the 1960s. Let’s go back to this guy who was in the civil rights movement. He was a Freedom Rider. He was a civil rights activist. His name was Stokely Carmichael. And one summer, you know that they call Freedom Summer. A bunch of activists, white and Black, went to Mississippi to register a bunch of people to vote. And, you know, it kind of worked. But, you know, they murdered four of those activists. And so the next summer, this guy, Stokely Carmichael, he was kind of getting disillusioned with the idea of nonviolent resistance. So he went to this county, called Lowdnes County, Alabama, and decided he was going to register Black people to vote. And so he started the Lowndes County Freedom Organization and the LCFO they didn’t have a political agenda, right? They were not Democrats. They were not Republicans. But here’s what he said about it.
Stokely Carmichael [00:06:00] So we called them lands. For instance, in Lowndes County, we called the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. They’re called Freedom Organizations, and they organized on the county level. Now, the Alabama law says that for these organizations or conferences or what have you, you need an emblem. And we just happened to pick the panther. There was no significance about it. I am sure that when the racist realized that they have nothing to to turn to it to ensure their power, then they will have to turn to violence in mass scale. Now, they’ve always used violence. They’ve always used it. They use it openly. And in a state where we’ve had nothing but violence, where the governor has advocated nothing but violence, we expect nothing but violence.
Reporter [00:06:46] Do the members of this organization carry weapons all the time or just when they anticipate trouble?
Stokely Carmichael [00:06:53] Well, most of them travel with them all the time. When I first moved into Alabama, you would see pickup trucks go by, white pickup trucks with guns. You know, you can carry a gun in Alabama as long as it’s shown, you see rifles and there were no Negroes. But now in Lowndes County, Negroes carry their guns to. To advocate nonviolence in Lowndes County is to advocate suicide.
Reporter [00:07:16] Would you call this a political education society?
Stokely Carmichael [00:07:20] No, I would call the political party. Its aims is to get political power. We want to take over the political machinery in the Black Belt counties where we work.
Michael Harriot [00:07:30] Yeah. His goal was to take over Lowndes County politics because Black people couldn’t elect anybody. Right. In fact, there were only four people, a Black people registered to vote. Before the Lowndes County Freedom Organization went down there. And so they had a motto and they said that the motto was Black power for Black people. And that, you know, they weren’t scared of these people because they had guns, just like the white people had guns. Well. The Lowndes County Freedom Organization was so successful that Alabama’s Democratic Party eventually merged with the LCFO and they became their own political party. And this was the kind of the beginning of the Democrats supporting Black candidates. Right. And one of those first for people to register to vote under the LCFO a couple of years later, he was elected sheriff. And not only was he elected sheriff, he served for 22 years. And after 22 years, he couldn’t be sheriff anymore because he became the Lowndes County probate judge.
Michael Harriot [00:08:43] But let’s go back to the sixties. Right. So after that summer, the next summer, you know, in Crazy Mississippi, there was this guy named James Meredith. He had already integrated by himself the University of Mississippi or what we call Ole Miss. So after he integrated Ole Miss, he wanted to prove to the country that like Lawrence County, Black people weren’t afraid anywhere, that white supremacy was nothing to be afraid of. So he wanted to march from Tennessee all the way to the South to show that white supremacy and white supremacy was nothing to be afraid of. And on his first day. Wow. The police were ignoring him. A man walked up to James Meredith and shot him on his first day of his march. Of the march for freedom. His march was over, except that all those Black activists said, man, we’re not going to let it go down like this. And they went down to Mississippi and they continued James Meredith’s march. And on the first day that they continued the march. They had this big, you know, speech, this big event where all of these Black leaders spoke. Martin Luther King spoke. You know, all the Black leaders spoke. And when it was Stokely Carmichael’s time to speak. He didn’t talk about nonviolent resistance. He was done with that. He was going to talk about Black power for Black people.
Michael Harriot [00:10:24] And he stood up and he started speaking and one of his homeboys stood up and said, What do we want? And everybody in that crowd said, Black power. What do we want? Black power. And that’s how Black power for Black people was condensed to the phrase Black power. And that’s how the LCFO’s mascot the Black Panther became the mascot of the Black Power Movement. Which became known as the Black Panther Party. And that’s why it was demonized. The whole Black power movement was demonized by white America. And how did they demonize it? They flipped the phrase instead of Black power. They started saying White power. Now. That was way back then. But anyone you know today who says that phrase white power, you know, that they’re specifically using it as a weapon against Black people. You know, that they believe in white supremacy. And all they did was use the phrase that Black people came up to identify with their freedom, with their quest for equality. All they did is flip it and add white. And that’s the same thing they did with Black Lives Matter.
Michael Harriot [00:12:03] When someone says white lives matter, they’re not seriously suggesting that white lives should be important because there’s never been a nanosecond in the history of this country that white lives weren’t important. White lives were important when they founded this country. White lives were so important that they dragged Black people over here to do white people’s work. White lives were so important that they kept lynching us when we said, Hey, men like you don’t have to do that. They white lives were so important that they demonized our right to vote, our right to participate in democracy, our right to live where we wanted to live and go to school. Where we wanted to go to school. There has never been a minute that white lives haven’t been important or mattered. Just like there’s never been a minute where white power exist. And so when they flip it, they’re not being serious. They’re trying to demonize the Black Lives Matter movement or any person who wants Black people to be equal in a free. And really American. And that’s why white lives don’t matter. Because we already know it does. This country demonstrates it every day. And that’s why the t shirt is not offensive. Unless you put it in the context of the people who are specifically anti-Black, who use our movements to demonize ourselves and to try to end our existence. And that’s why you need to download the theGrio app. That’s why you need to subscribe. That’s why you need to tell a friend about our podcast. And that’s why we leave you with a famous Black saying. And today’s Black saying is if white lives didn’t matter. We wouldn’t have to say Black lives matter. Thank you for listening to theGrio daily and we’ll see you next time. Thank you for listening to theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app. Subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio dot com.
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