Faculty, students speak on politics of Black Lives Matter

Will Clark

Professors and activists debated the evolving Black Lives Matter movement, centering around a new document and platform, called A Vision for Black Lives, that aims to clarify the group’s demands and goals. 

During the Thursday panel some speakers could not foresee practical implementation of these demands into policy while others lauded the movement’s new direction.  

“The interesting thing here is the push toward expanding the movement beyond just a hashtag,” said Christen Smith, associate professor of African and African diaspora studies. “People look at Black Lives Matter and think of it with the number sign in front of it and immediately associate it with a social media platform and not recognizing it as a trajectory of black radical politics in this country.”

Fatima Mann, an activist with the Austin Justice Coalition, said she agrees with the movement’s direction but its goals are unrealistic. 

“How are they going to implement this on a real-life aspect?” Mann said. “How are you going to make it sustainable on a real-life aspect? I agree that there are things that need to be done, but it’s not realistic in terms of application.”

Peniel Joseph, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, brought UT athletics into the race discussion as well.

“We are a very segregated campus, but people love our black athletes,” Joseph said. “They love them and what those bodies represent. When those bodies aren’t in the Longhorn burnt orange, the lure turns to loathing.”

Business sophomore Amie Jean attended the discussion but found the location in Sid Richardson Hall inconvenient.  

“I would like it if panels like this took place on the main campus where undergraduate students could be involved,” Jean said. 

The conversation also covered the University’s engagement with impoverished communities in Austin.

“When the University does engage with the community, it’s not on an even level,” Smith said. “It is very uneven, and it is as if we think of everything east of I-35 as a laboratory. This University has a history of tension with black and brown people of Texas.”

Next Wednesday, the second part of the series of race-related discussions will be held from 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in Bass Lecture Hall.