At the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren took "center stage" (whatever that means now) during a speech delivered from an empty early childcare center. Her speech addressed issues like the coronavirus pandemic and the President’s inadequate response to the crisis and, as indicated with her choice of venue, the need for the United States to provide universal childcare for American families. But eagle-eyed viewers noticed a hidden message in the background of Warren’s scene.
Over Warren’s left shoulder, on the right side of the screen, alphabet blocks spelled out the letters “BLM.” The gesture was a nod to the ongoing uprising against racial injustice and police brutality. Warren used the biggest stage she had to send a simple but clear message, without actually saying it: Black Lives Matter.
The gesture was talked about on all the cable news channels following the DNC, with MSNBC’s Joy Reid saying they “gave me a little bit of life,” while CNN’s Angela Rye called it “Woke Sesame Street." Fox News talked about it, too, albeit in a less enthusiastic way.
However, aside from the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them blocks in the background of her speech, she didn’t address the issue on Wednesday night, leaving many to find her actions a performative gesture at best. Her words didn’t reflect on anything about racism, state violence, police brutality, nor did she mention any of the victims who the movement has been uplifting, like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Tony McDade. In that way, the gesture felt like an afterthought — empty and a bit meaningless.
Despite the debate over Warren's not-so-subtle nod to Trump's least favorite movement, the Massachusetts Senator has generally been outspoken in her support for the movement since at least 2015, likening the current uprising to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. She's declared, “Black lives matter. Black citizens matter. Black families matter" in no uncertain terms. Warren has also consistently introduced policies that centered the needs of Black communities during her presidential campaign, including a “Working Agenda for Black America” that addressed Black maternal mortality rates, redlining, and public education.
Whether or not she should have used her time to directly address the movement to show real support will continue to leave supporters and critics at adds, though Warren did use her time to address a specific platform. Warren's speech largely focused on childcare — specifically under the Trump administration, and during the coronavirus pandemic. In doing so, she put motherhood at the forefront of the DNC, though the subject was previously lapse.
"We stay in this fight so that when our children and our grandchildren ask what we did during this dark chapter in our nation’s history, we will be able to look them squarely in the eye and say: we organized, we persisted, and we changed America."