Many people have pointed out how the label “terrorist” becomes a useful tool for some to demonize an opposing group, so it should not be a surprise that a few have tried to label the Black Lives Matter movement as terrorist. While the label “terrorist” carries significant emotive weight in contemporary society, other terms and labels that may be less obvious also can be strategic tools for authorizing and deauthorizing groups. We need to be equally alert to those less obvious authorizing and deauthorizing moves, even when individuals and groups with whom we sympathize employ them.
This issue came to my mind when reading a commentary (“Civil Rights Activists, Not Terrorists”) that describes an encounter with a police officer who initially dismissed a complaint about a stolen Black Lives Matter banner with the suggestion that the movement had been labeled terrorist. While the frustration at such a use of the label is significant (notably, the officer backtracked when he could not demonstrate that it is actually on any list of terrorist organizations, making me wonder if someone is suggesting this equation to police officers), the commentary from the minister of the church whose banner was stolen engaged in mounds of authorizing labels. Continue reading “Strategic Terms for Black Lives Matter”