Yes, all lives matter.
So why, in that case, does saying so offend so many so deeply?
Since the Black Lives Matter movement began at the hands of three powerful Black women in 2013, it has been criticized for its exclusivity. “What about white lives? Asian lives? Mexican, Russian, Indigenous lives? Don’t they matter?” people say. To this, those three women, and the global network that has since grown out of their movement, would say yes, of course. All lives matter.
Okay, that’s three times so far that I’ve said “all lives matter,” but you’re not going to see me shout that from the rooftops. It’s not because I don’t believe it. I absolutely do. But you don’t need to hear me say it. You need to hear, and know, that Black lives matter.
The clash between the mottoes “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” is an interesting one, because both are true, and the great majority of proponents on both sides will agree (at least on the surface level) that both statements are true. What we disagree on is which statement needs to be said.
One of the many reasons why we must teach each other to say that Black lives matter is that this statement is a specific reaction to centuries of palpable injustice, while “All Lives Matter” begins and ends essentially as a rhetorical statement. You see, the opposite of “Black Lives Matter” isn’t “All Lives Matter,” it is “Black Lives Don’t Matter.” So when you push back against someone proclaiming that the lives of an entire race are worth fighting for, it’s hard not to take it as a dismissal of Black lives altogether.
Here’s another way of looking at it. There’s a reason why Alicia, Patrisse, and Opal called it Black Lives Matter in the first place and not All Lives Matter. It might sound like it would have had the same effect—equality—but it would not have. When you say “Black Lives Matter,” you’re calling attention to one specific marginalized group (and within that, the BLM founders wanted to give further attention especially to Black women, and queer and transgender Black people). “All Lives Matter” isn’t much of a rally cry or a call to action. It doesn’t tell us whose rights we need to fight for.
Other than the obvious, when Black people say “Black Lives Matter,” they are saying, “We have been victims of systemic and subconscious racism and police brutality for decades, and worse inequality for even longer. We have been criminalized and treated as if our lives are expendable for too long. But we are here and we’re saying that our lives—we—do matter.” If you hear that and still say “All Lives Matter,” then you’re shrugging off the problem that they are pleading with you to acknowledge and address. “All Lives Matter” is a denial of the racism that Black Americans have faced for centuries, and to refuse that is to deny that their lives matter.
So you can believe that all lives matter. I do. We all do. But you don’t need to tell us. At least not until we have faced our problem and shown that we know that Black lives matter.
9 thoughts on “Do All Lives Matter?”
Maybe black people are offended when white people respond that all lives matter, is like telling them to clean up after someone else’s mess when they didn’t make the mess.
We’re telling our African-American friends and family to help clean up our mess, and they’re offended by that. Especially when they still aren’t granted equal protection yet expected to still be good sports and just play along like most Americans, pretending they have had equal opportunity for a hundred years now, when they haven’t.
The meme says it all.
Your post is excellent and the “all lives matter” group just doesn’t get it or doesn’t want to and in a way it’s a racist comment .
A reasonable argument. There’s an analogy with the broader problem of speciesism here, in which the plight of non-human animals needs special consideration in order to be heard. https://strangequark.me/2020/04/19/animalia-commonalis-truth-suffering-and-ethics/
All Lives Don’t Matter in the US and it goes much further than just Black Lives. Immigrant children
Inner city children
Pregnant women seeking abortion
People without health insurance
See, when the anti-BLM crowd says “All Lives Matter,” it’s disingenuous. This country has never cared about All Lives.
Very well said.
I have always taken “black lives matter” to be short for “black lives matter too”. It’s a call for help. And its a great slogan.
Imagine that a child has been kidnaped and the parents are asked, “does your child’s life matter?” “Of course it does!” To then reply “how dare you say only YOUR child’s life matters!” would obviously make no sense, just as it makes no sense to think BLM means ONLY black lives matter. When people find themseves saying things that make no sense they should consider what’s going on inside of them that disabled their intelligence.
Right you are. This is about life and death of American citizens. While non-white people have suffered immeasurably for years at the hands of oppressive people in authority, victims of brutality, especially by police, can be (just way fewer) of any group. This is an American problem. I do not have a prescription for resolution, but it sure as hell would be wonderful if we could get the cops to stop supporting murderous oppressors within their ranks.
It’s not that one tome is better or more accurate or comprehensive than another. My question is, what are we doing to fix it? The slogans are fine, the marches and protests are nice. But if nothing changes, nothing changes. We must do more than just vent, although speaking out may be all we can do. For now. If all lives mattered and black lives mattered we would not be having this chat and Colin K. would still be playing football somewhere (except for national health emergency).
Racism is an environmental toxin. It poisons everyone eventually.
Something to bear in mind while perusing YouTube, perhaps.
Racism exists and we should deal with it in a fact based way.
It is an issue that affects us all, but frequently gets lip service or emotional knee-jerk reactions that end up polarizing those who don’t see the full picture.
If we don’t get to the root of the issues with facts, we will never have sustainable solutions.
Took a stab recently at understanding the state of the challenge. This is what I wrote: