In 2016, it seemed impossible to go a full two weeks without a national outrage in the face of police brutality. Black Lives Matter was one of the most influential grassroots movements, and they regularly had the country’s full attention.
So far, 2017 could not be any more starkly different. What happened? Did the police completely reform? Did Trump fix the problem? The movement has become shockingly quiet, and the reasons might seem shocking until you take a step back and look at the big picture.
As we so often do, we’ll start this discussion with a hard look at some numbers. In 2017, participation in Black Lives Matter is roughly one-tenth of its peak in 2016. Groups are still organizing and protesting, but they now number in the hundreds as opposed to the tens of thousands they had before.
In spite of the shrinking effort, the actual state of the police is mostly unchanged from 2016. Unfortunately, citizens are still killed by police, and for the first two months of this year, those numbers are slightly higher than they were in 2016.
On top of that, rates of police killings by race, gender and the other metrics that are so important to Black Lives Matter remain unchanged. The status quo is exactly as it was when the movement peaked in 2016, yet their voice and presence are substantially muted.
It might be easy to blame the media for this change. After all, they have all but dropped coverage of the group. As much as I like to give the media their share of deserved criticism, they actually aren’t at fault this time. The minute protests of Black Lives Matter simply aren’t news anymore. You can verify that by comparing social media feeds between last summer and now. People, even among minorities, aren’t sharing these stories.
Even though the perceived problem is exactly the same, Black Lives Matters seems to have lost steam. This was easy to predict for a group that never formed clear, actionable goals, but the reasons run a bit deeper. One of the biggest reasons they aren’t news anymore is their lack of internal support.
Even within the neighborhoods that were at the forefront of the movement, participation and approval of the group are both at all-time lows. There isn’t a hard metric to cite as a definitive cause, but interviews with individuals who have abandoned Black Lives Matter can shed some light.
There is a running theme that the group was more problematic than beneficial. This is obvious when you consider the number of major protests that ended in rioting and pointless destruction and harm.
The bigger problem is that the movement obstructed policing efforts in some of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods in the country. After the protests around Freddie Gray, police officers were largely hindered from their normal activities in the most violent parts of Baltimore. As a result, murder rates hit record highs. Since the movement has lost steam, police have returned to routine efforts, and those rates responded accordingly.
And, this is the story across the country. Whether from fear or from protests that literally redirected efforts, police forces dealing with major chapters of Black Lives Matters were less effective than normal, and it was the citizens in those areas who suffered.
This has not been lost on anyone in the affected areas, as a result the lifeblood of Black Lives Matter has abandoned the cause. It turns out that they prefer the protection of the police to the destruction of an ineffective protest group.
It would be impossible to fully cover this discussion without mentioning Trump and Obama. One of the biggest boons Black Lives Matter had was Obama. His deflection and race baiting were a nearly bottomless well of fuel for the movement. Obama’s rhetoric promoted racial tension and destructive behavior.
Since Trump took office, tensions have begun to ease (if ever so slightly), and the only thing he had to do to accomplish that change was to stop inciting racist feelings. When the president isn’t actively pushing the nation into racial infighting, the people are capable of reasonable discourse.
In short, Black Lives Matters has lost steam because it was harming America. There may yet be a revival in their future, but for now the country is collectively concerned with other issues.
They brought failure upon themselves, and the election of Trump virtually sealed the deal. By the simple virtue of not being Obama, his presence in office has deescalated a situation that was representing a growing danger for everyone in the country.