Proposed for its global impact in raising awareness and consciousness of racial injustice, the Black Lives Matter Movement Nobel nomination raises questions about individual vs group role in bringing change.
With each passing year, the Nobel Peace Prize nominees are getting more and more eyeballs and at the same time giving rise to much controversy. The 2021 nominees are no exception to that. Amongst them, Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, the World Health Organization, climate activist Greta Thunberg and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams are projected frontrunners as all have been backed by Norwegian lawmakers, who have a track record of picking the winner. However, two other nominees, who are attracting much discussion include the Black Lives Matter movement nominated by Norwegian MP Petter Eide and the pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, nominated by a bipartisan group of US lawmakers.
BLM accredited for spreading Anti-Racism message globally
Underscoring the Black Lives Matter movement’s “struggle against racism and racially motivated violence,” Norwegian socialist lawmaker Petter Eide, who has since been receiving death threats for the nomination, said “BLM’s call for systemic change has spread around the world, forcing other countries to grapple with racism within their own societies.”
Watch: Black Lives Matter movement gets nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
In his nomination letter, Eide said, “I find that one of the key challenges we have seen in America, but also in Europe and Asia, is the kind of increasing conflict based on inequality. ” Underlining, Black Lives Matter’s importance as a worldwide movement to fight racial injustice, Eide added that “They have had a tremendous achievement in raising global awareness and consciousness about racial injustice.”
Movement Welcomes Nomination
Black Lives Matter on their part, have welcomed the Nobel nomination with a tweet stating “We hold the largest social movement in global history. Today, we have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. People are waking up to our global call: for racial justice and an end to economic injustice, environmental racism, and white supremacy. We’re only getting started.”
Started in 2013 by three women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, in response to the acquittal in the US of the man who shot Trayvon Martin, the Black Lives Matter movement, gained momentum with unjust racial killings over the years. However, it was in 2020 following the death of George Floyd, that the movement marshalled its international appeal. The extrajudicial killing, sparked widespread protests in the United States that soon spread across the world.
The global impact of the movement and its broader, cross-class appeal is another factor that impressed Eide about BLM, the way “they have been able to mobilize people from all groups of society, not just African-Americans, not just oppressed people, it has been a broad movement, in a way which has been different from their predecessors.”
Insisting he did not want his nomination to be seen as any sort of comment on US politics, Eide stressed that “Awarding the peace prize to Black Lives Matter, as the strongest global force against racial injustice, will send a powerful message that peace is founded on equality, solidarity and human rights, and that all countries must respect those basic principles.”
Criticism of BLM From Right and Left
The criticism of the nomination, as also for the movement, is expectedly, strong from right-wing quarters who blame the movement for inciting violence and riots.
However, even supporters of the movement see a lack of control in the movement’s leadership, which they say enabled violence. Citing Martin Luther King, columnist Dahleen Glanton writes, “Though many sought to derail his nonviolent message, he never allowed them in the forefront, let alone take over the message.” By contrast, she points that, “In its zeal to support the development of new Black leaders, BLM allowed chapters to operate independently across the country. That has been its greatest failure.”
Do Individual Contributions Matter?
However, the one other question the nomination has thrown up is around group vs individual contributors. Are groups better at effecting change than individuals?
Also nominated by a Norwegian socialist lawmaker, Lars Haltbrekken, the US voting and civil rights activist and Democratic Party politician Stacey Abrams has been cited for her work to promote nonviolent change via the ballot box. “Abrams’ work follows in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s footsteps in the fight for equality before the law and for civil rights.”
While Abrams work has been much commended in the US, she is not as well known a figure outside. Does that minimize her contributions?
The argument stops at Greta Thunberg, who has emerged as a global icon for climate issues. Nominated as one of “the foremost spokespeople in the fight against the climate crisis”, she is another Norwegian lawmaker-backed nominee. Thunberg was also nominated previously but was omitted from the Nobel Peace Prize shortlist. Explaining his decision to the Washington Post, Henrik Urdal, the head of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo had said there “isn’t scientific consensus that there is a linear relationship between climate change – or resource scarcity, more broadly – and armed conflict.”
This perhaps, was a reference to Alfred Nobel’s outline for the prize, where he had said that the prize should be given to someone who has advanced the “abolition or reduction of standing armies.”
Yet, not all awards have related directly to reduction of armed conflict, but the Nobel Committee hopes to the original wishes of Alfred Nobel.
Other 2021 nominees, both individuals and organizations, or groups, have also invited much discussion both for their contributions as well as global appeal. The world will have to wait and watch to see who the prize finally goes to but it is certain that no winner will escape brickbats or trolls in this post-Trump polarized world we have come to inhabit.