In Defiance of Hidden Deaths

By: Nicholas E. Mitchell, Ph.D. 

Noted political philosopher Charles Mills argues, in order to understand the current state of race relations, one must first accept the following premise: White Supremacy is one of the most consequential ideologies in human history and the modern world is a direct consequence of it.[1] It belongs in the pantheon of ideologies that changed how humans frame their very existence and has claimed the lives of untold millions. This premise is not an indictment of individuals or their morality; but rather it reflects world history and how we arrived at the current status quo, which can be accurately described as what Mills calls “the racial contract”: a racial, caste system in the United States where people of color are scheduled castes and denied a life free from the machinations of racists.[2] In this context, Black Lives Matter has emerged as not only a political movement, but also as a living philosophy dedicated to nonviolence that seeks to emancipate human bodies—of all race —from the racial contract.

In its intersectional form and as a living philosophy, Black Lives Matter is the current incarnation of the centurieslong Black resistance against White Supremacy across multiple fronts. As a movement, it was catalyzed and given form as a response to the extrajudicial murders of Black men like Michael Brown, Walter Scott, and Alton Sterling; Black women like Sandra Bland, Islan Nettles, and Tanisha

Anderson; and Black children like Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Aiyana Jones. Black Lives Matter is continuing the work of the Maroon communities, Tubman, Douglass, Wells, Randolph, Rustin, and King; it is the intellectual and spiritual successor of all of the men and women who struggled so that their children would not have to know what oppression looked like, smelled like, or felt like. As a political movement, most recently enunciated in the platform of the Movement for Black Lives, Black Lives Matter is dedicated to emancipatory transformation and has given rise to a number of organizations. Black Lives Matter’s holding of politicians, presidential candidates, and the various police departments around the nation accountable for the murders of Black men, women, and children is an echo of the early twentieth century NAACP’s anti-lynching efforts. They force Americans to see what is happening around them, which makes many people, of all races, uncomfortable. This is intentional and rooted in the Black prophetic tradition and politic which holds that change only happens with tension and the only way to achieve tension is through peaceful agitation.