VIDEO: Black Lives Matter co-creator tells UMD students capitalism opposes blacks

Alicia Garza, the social activist who coined #BlackLivesMatter, shared her views on social activism, the modern-day civil rights movement, and capitalism to a crowd of more than 500 at the University of Maryland on Tuesday.

“What does capitalism, to the extent that it can be considered in such simplistic terms, stand to gain from the oppression or disenfranchisement of anyone, but especially of black people,” Campus Reform asked Garza during an open question and answer session.

At first, Garza seemed to not understand the question, but after it was rephrased as “does capitalism oppose blacks?” she managed a chuckle and responded, simply, “yes.”

Garza restated the question asking, “[i]s capitalism is bad for blacks? Yes!”

“Black folks were the first currency in this country,” she continued as the audience applauded with a mixture of claps and finger snaps. "When you have a system that’s built off buying and selling human beings, and forcing through violence...those human beings to provide free labor that generates a lot of wealth, not just for people but for entire nations, and then locks out of [sic] access to basic human needs...there's something very wrong with that system.”

The activist added that she believes black capitalism—the notion of supporting black owned goods and services—is not a solution to empower blacks and that America needs a completely different system.

“I don’t think that by making more black elites that we are going to shift that, so black capitalism is not the answer to that,” she said. “We need a different economic system that does not prioritize profits over people.”

Noting that black men are the mostly likely to be killed by police, that black women are the most likely to be sexually assaulted by a police officer, and that black trans women are most likely to be targeted as sex workers, Garza claimed that many of the travesties she and Black Lives Matter aim to combat are the result of state-sanctioned violence.

“Many people are impacted by state-sanctioned violence and police violence is not the only way that that plays out,” she announced. “State-sanctioned violence looks like patriarchy, it looks like trans phobia, it looks like trans panic is a legal defense to killing another human being. It’s sanctioned by the state.”

In regard to the controversial deaths of Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin, Garza noted that “every time a black person is killed by the police, they’re called a thug.” She also contrasted criticism of her movement to the Cliven Bundy standoff, a land dispute between a white male rancher in Nevada and the U.S. government.

“Cliven Bundy went on television and encouraged his supporters to shoot back at the government,” she observed. “Now, he’s alive, he’s free; but that’s not true for black folks.”

At one point, Garza encouraged audience members to immediately take out their phones and sign Black Lives Matters’ petition for a Black Lives Matter presidential debate.

“We want to know, do you believe that black lives matter?” she said.

Garza’s visit was a part of the University of Maryland’s “Rise Above ‘-isms’” week, a campaign run by the school’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion that strives to educate students about the harmful nature of “-isms” like racism and sexism.

Over 26 different university offices co-hosted the event, including the College of Education, the UM School of Public Health, and the A. James Clark School of Engineering.

Follow the authors of this article on Twitter: @C_Spencer_ and @ericabau2