Black Lives Matter Struggles to Look Like a Tough Grass Roots Organization While Raking in Big Bucks: $90 Million in One Year of Donations
BLM's 2020 "Impact Report" is high on platitudes and low on hard information regarding the organization's spending and 'achievements'
April 11, 2021
On every page of the official Black Lives Matter website, a button urges one to "donate today." Benefactors may warm themselves with supporting BLM's "ongoing fight to end State-sanctioned violence, liberate Black people, and end white supremacy forever."
In their 2020 Impact Report released in February, the activist organization attempts to explain how they are going about achieving these lofty, distorted, and utterly vague goals. In the process, they try to explain what they're doing with all the money they've collected, particularly over the last year following George Floyd's death when they raked in an astonishing $90 million.
BLM, that started as a hashtag in 2013, has now become so large it has split into three "sister" organizations: Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation , Black Lives Matter Political Action Committee , and Black Lives Matter Grassroots . BLMGNF fundraises, gives grants, and serves as a "think tank." BLM (PAC) delves into electoral issues, promoting legislation, boosting some candidates and destroying others. BLM Grassroots comprises the many chapters in various cities around the nation. Apparently sensing the suspiciously corporate (and capitalist) nature taking over the organization, Executive Director Patrisse Cullors assures us that "we remain true to our origin story and our developed strengths through the growth of the movement."
But the difficulty of remaining victimized and oppressed permeates the report, especially since it is otherwise bursting with the organization's incredible fundraising, enthusiastic public response, and legislative and electoral victories. It is no coincidence, then, that the problems and issues of the Black community that BLM has allegedly pledged to resolve are presented in the vaguest possible terms and with few facts to prove that they exist or are, in fact, the essential problems of that community.
"We don't need to recap" the challenges of the past year, Cullors assures us, because "Black people are intimately familiar with our societal shortcomings." Disingenuously, Cullors relies on the reader to supply their own biases and narrative rather than provide her own version of society's shortcomings, an endeavor which could well make her the target of fact checkers and other inconvenient sources of reality.
The few pieces of data regarding the alleged problem of systemic racism and state violence that BLM does produce are, in fact, bogus. "In the first eight months of 2020, police killed 164 Black people," we are told. What we are not told is that almost all of these Black people must have been armed. According to the Washington Post database on police shootings, a grand total of 135 unarmed black people have been killed by police SINCE 2015 - in 6 years. That is an average of 22.5 unarmed blacks killed by police per year.
But BLM does not want to bother us with the facts, though, especially when those facts get in the way of the narrative that "Black and brown people are targets of the police," that "white supremacy is currently sanctioned by our systems and even some of our elected officials," and most philanthropy is "an anti-Black space full of bureaucratic hoops of white supremacy." This is a narrative that has garnered BLM $90 million, 24 million website visitors, 1.9 million email subscribers, and 4.3 million Instagram followers. Clearly, being oppressed can mean big bucks and influence when you know how to play your cards.
Having made this much money, BLM is now faced with the problem of managing it. Rather than spend it all on their equitable, anti-racist goals in education, mental health, and housing, they are conserving the bulk of their 2020 windfall in their Foundation. Now "We are an institution" the report explains. Nobody should expect them to actually pay out in some constructive form the donations they have received. Instead, they congratulate themselves on having spent as much as 23% of their assets, "almost three times the industry norm." They are reserving the bulk of their donations, $60 million, in investments. They behave remarkably like one of those white-supremacist, capitalist organizations they otherwise abhor.
BLM's 2020 Impact Report makes clear that there is much hay to be made from invoking perennial racial complaints. It is not necessary to prove the continued validity of those complaints or to examine the part played by the internal workings of the Black community. No need to investigate whether the free, individual decisions made by particular members of the Black community play any part in the life they then lead.
Such facts could only get in the way of a very lucrative story.