Black Lives Matter Philly has issued an impassioned defense of its policy of restricting meetings to people of color, after being the subject of an online attack from conservative news media outlets and their followers.
On Wednesday, the Philadelphia branch of the organization wrote that it is “unapologetically Black and believe[s] having Black only spaces — where Black people can come together to strategize, organize, heal and fellowship without the threat of violence and co-optation — is an important part of Black liberation. … This is not the first time we have received backlash and threats in relation to how we organize.”
The online firestorm began after alt-right Breitbart News reported earlier this week that Black Lives Matter Philly had instituted “a policy of discrimination based on skin color.”
The reporting was based on tweets from BLM Philly about its upcoming April meeting, scheduled to take place at Mastery Charter School. Scores of tweets from right-wing supporters against BLM Philly followed the article’s publication. A woman from the West Coast first drew attention to BLM Philly by noting that white supporters participated in the civil rights movement.
Look very closely at this photo of MLK marching for black rights. As you can see white people are with him. So why is @BLMPhilly saying no? pic.twitter.com/e29ddQCuHn
— Sharika Soal (@LadyThriller69) April 3, 2017
In a now deleted tweet, BLM Philly responded: “He made that choice and we have made ours. White people can support us but they cannot attend our meetings.” It later referenced civil rights icon Malcom X as having a similar view.
Malcolm took our same stance. White people could not attend the meetings but could support his organization https://t.co/RyUGClETHJ
— BLM Philly (@BLMPhilly) April 3, 2017
In its statement, BLM Philly asserted that Breitbart equating its policy with “discrimination” was inaccurate and offensive.
“There is a huge difference between a systematic denial of a person’s access to public spaces such as restaurants, hotels, schools and hospitals simply based on their skin color, and saying that a meeting is a Black-centered space,” BLM Philly stated. “Trying to compare legal segregation and structural racism to lack of access to our meetings is a false dichotomy and the epitome of privilege.”