Black Lives Matter’s #MeToo Moment

by Marcus Harrison Green

(This article is jointly published with the Seattle Weekly)

Men get glory. Women get obscurity. Queer folks get indifference.

While that pretty much sums up most levels of American society, it’s readily applicable to the history of black movements. Too many of them have been hijacked by the tried-and-true formula of a mesmerizing male figure—one who oozes charisma and spouts glib aphorisms by the metric ton—ascending to the top slot of civil rights and black movements initiated by women.

That’s why in terms of peak movement consciousness, MLK’s oratory will always outshout FLM’s (Fannie Lou Hamer). Malcolm X’s radicalism will always out-revolutionary Clara Fraser’s. And today, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ genius garners more acclaim than Brown professor Tricia Rose. It’s also why James Baldwin’s gayness is mostly expunged from his biography. I’m guessing the aforementioned males are petrified in your memory, whereas the female names spark finger-dashes to Google.

The cruelty of forgetting women’s critical contributions to movements would be one thing, but the glossing over of the condoning of physical violence done to them is another. It’s violence too often excused because of a call for solidarity, most exemplified by the early life of former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver: a vanguard of the black-liberation movement, inspirational author, freedom fighter—and admitted serial rapist. In his autobiography Soul on Ice, he stated that he raped hundreds of black women “for practice.” His comrades knew of his atrocities, as well as his disregard for women Panthers, but did a grand total of jack squat. He was “too essential” to the movement and black freedom struggle. Apparently, there was no one who didn’t view rape as sport who could fill his role?

The tragedy of American movements is that—no matter how “woke” or countercultural—once they’ve reached a certain mass, they revert to the mean of our society: Straight males at the top followed by everyone else in descending order depending on how closely you align with that trait.

And in terms of black movements, I know the very valid reasons for not wanting to address such issues in the light of day. Movements are afforded only a razor-thin margin of error, and to fight among yourselves under an ever-judging and unforgiving “white gaze” is tantamount to treason.

After all, why should we air out our dirty laundry in public?

Maybe because that’s the only way it’ll ever get clean.

For nearly a year, I’ve heard rumors and accusations about some problematic behavior by a few claiming leadership of Seattle’s Black Lives Matter chapter. But most people seemed reticent to publicly express their concerns. That changed last December. Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County (BLMSKC) officially launched, founded in response to rampant and continued abuse experienced by straight and queer women and trans folks in the local BLM movement.

On January 2, BLMSKC posted its first message to its Facebook page: “Seattle’s Black Lives Matter movement* has been plagued—almost from the start—by abusive men who have co-opted the mantle to promote themselves and have derailed organizing & advocacy efforts by berating, diminishing, belittling, and harassing black women, femme, queer and trans people. As a result, many black and POC targets of this abuse have either left this movement or remained on the fringes in order to protect themselves. Until now, they have not had the power or support necessary to address these issues without being further victimized or targeted.”

While BLM was founded by three queer black women, BLMSKC claimed some local leaders routinely alienated the queer community. Taking inspiration from the black women who started the #MeToo movement, they would distance themselves from abusive spaces and create empowering ones of their own.

“It is a huge reaction to the marginalized gender—women, trans folk, etc.—being pushed out of these movements due to abuse and not being listened to due to people trying to co-opt their hard work. A lot of us are just tired, really,” says BLMSKC co-founder Ebony Miranda, who also helped organize Seattle’s inaugural Womxn’s March.

4 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter’s #MeToo Moment”

  1. Thanks for this, Marcus. I read: “The tragedy of American movements is that—no matter how “woke” or countercultural…” and the word “woke” makes me cringe. How people use that as a weapon “I’m woke/you’re not” &c. How do we define that word and what are the criteria for it? I think Cornel West is in your camp when he complains about the neoliberal agenda of Coates but then also writes the introduction to “Freedom is a Constant Struggle” – the latest by Angela Davis. The contrast in my mind is clear. Thanks for the news, sad as it is.


  2. On Sun, Mar 4, 2018 at 8:14 AM, South Seattle Emerald wrote:

    > Editor posted: “by Marcus Harrison Green (This article is jointly > published with the Seattle Weekly) Men get glory. Women get obscurity. > Queer folks get indifference. While that pretty much sums up most levels of > American society, it’s readily applicable to the histor” >


  3. Thank you for this courageous support to those on the bottom of society, and of every struggle! We can change things when we take everyone’s fight personally enough to put ourselves on the line for it!


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