Black Lives Matter’s rapid increase in size and popularity and its positive effects around the world, coupled with associated tendency toward socialism, unnerved the protectors of status quo. Soft conservatives, liberals and centrists, in governments, media and elsewhere, fear Black Lives Matter’s success as much as their far right peers do. But, the former cannot align openly with racists nor can they discredit anti-racists other than banal comments about protests escalating into violence and complaints about vandalism of statues.
The common strategy of the centre and soft-right when faced with effective radical challenge to their power is to set themselves apart as an elevated perspective that humours and “understands” protest while restricting it to a specific political location as a “concern” to be commented upon, analysed and controlled. One tactic of this strategy is to claim falsely that the challenge to power is a challenge against people who are not key actors in power.
The phrase “culture war” popped up in media commentaries of Black Lives Matter protests and extreme-right riots this weekend. The intent of the phrase is to depict the battle between anti-racism and its target as a battle between thinly-focused groups while self-appointed arbiters sit apart casting peremptory eyes down on the protagonists. The ultimate aim is to reduce Black Lives Matter’s capacity to be leaders of the public in a challenge against real power.
There is no “culture war.” The fight is between anti-racists and racism and the main targets of anti-racism are in power: They are in government, in the judiciary, in education, in police forces and in the media. The fight is between the public and those who exploit them.