Because this is a given… All Lives Matter to me, anyway.
However, as I consider the racially tense events of the past few months, the mainstream media response (or lack there of) to the killings in Nigeria, the symbolic political gesture that included many world leaders in response to the murders at Charlie Hebdo, the newspaper that edited that image so that Angela Merkel was removed from that event, the overwhelming support that Charlie Hebdo received via the Golden Globes while the killings in Nigeria, the missing students in Mexico didn’t get a mention, etc., etc., I would say that while all lives matter to me, there may be some disconnect as to what that phrase may mean to other people.
My guess to why #AllLivesMatter became a thing is because there was a misunderstanding regarding what #BlackLivesMatter means, how it came about.
“…Common clearly took a lesson from the book of Kanye West when he refused to say the words that felt as if they were hanging from the tip of his tongue: “Black lives matter.” I was struck by the audacity of inclusion in Common’s remarks and reminded that this is precisely the kind of racial discourse that we don’t need. But it is the kind of racial discourse in which liberal black folks are forced to publicly engage in order that they might not seem antagonistic to white people. Even when we want to say, ‘Black lives matter’, we talk about the lives of other people of color, and about white lives, too. We include everybody, because accusations of exclusion often make white folks less willing to listen to our critiques. Of course, all lives matter. But only some lives—black lives—are consistently treated as if they don’t.”
“Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” — http://blacklivesmatter.com/
#BlackLivesMatter is a movement, not just a slogan.
Perhaps #AllLivesMatter started because the word ‘Black’ was just too specific, or as Dr. Cooper points out, too exclusive. Well, it’s meant to be specific. When the Olympics happen and everyone is ‘Team USA’, we are not discounting the talents and physical prowess of any other country participating in a particular event. We are simply showing support for the country we call ‘home’. There isn’t a ground swell of #TeamWholeWorld that happens.
Or in the sentiment that went viral a few weeks back, when we attend functions to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS research, we don’t show up at the event and question why no one is talking about ‘cancer’, as if it doesn’t matter.
#AllLivesMatters divorces the movement from the wider contexts of issues of systemic violence and racial bias. It’s as James Baldwin wrote so poignantly in his book, ‘Notes of a Native Son’, “people who shut their eyes to reality simply invited their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after the innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”
It’s so funny to me how many people were happy to call me ‘friend’ and ‘peer’ until they felt the assertion of my blackness and my refusal to stay quiet and complicit in the wake of Ferguson, Garner, etc. in some way threatened them. Once I used #BlackLivesMatter as opposed to #AllLivesMatter, some how my voice and opinion became noise and unreasonable anger. The willingness to accept my Black identity as long as it does not threaten, oppose, or cause discomfort to your status quo, here in lies the issue.
You do not get to separate my blackness from my experience simply because you have no personal frame of reference for it. It’s as if to say just because you have grown up with clean water all your life, it means that everyone in this world has access to clean water. Or just because you have never been a victim of violence, it means that there is no one in this world getting their butt kicked.
#BlackLivesMatter is about engaging in the imperative conversations of race and class that far too often go ignored and unheard, and misrepresented. It’s about who gets left out. Black includes more than skin color, but skin color is a big part of the issue.
This movement is an opportunity to engage, question, and overturn the policies, laws, and institutions that led to the inequity and violence that has plagued the Black condition since the times of slavery, and have gone unchallenged for centuries. It is meant to challenge the perceptions of ‘Black’ as the embodiment of savagery, ignorance, ferociousness and untamed since the natural sciences sought to understand what makes men different. It is also an “opportunity to connect struggles across race, class, gender, nationality, sexuality and disability.” — http://blacklivesmatter.com/
All lives do matter, but socially and politically there are still questions of how much they matter. We can run facts and figures all day to justify the variety of arguments and viewpoints that exist on this issue. You may not agree with my stance on this, but social oppression is very real and has been a part of the fabric of many societies for a long time. It doesn’t make it right. Nor does it change without being subject to opposition.
The fact that the term ‘social oppression’ exists means that somewhere, out there, with regularity, there is a group of people who consistently suffer mistreatment and exploitation through any number of collective and organized factions. This communicates the fact that while all lives may matter, some are treated as inferior. The stance that you take on that issue will depend on which side of that coin you land, your education, and experience.
The genius of racism, particularly in the United States, is that it is so common place and habitual, that it can be difficult to discern, especially when it is not directed towards you and you benefit from its existence.
#AllLivesMatter is an EXCELLENT sentiment, but not a substitute for #BlackLivesMatter. It’s as Margaret Mead said regarding issues of equality, “those who attempt to deny or overlook such differences obfuscate the issue” (pg. 43- Some Personal Views).
#BlackLivesMatter does not make me aggressive, anti-cop, anti-white people, or any of the other negative portraits that some people want to paint around it. It does make me aware of inequity, disenfranchisement, white privilege, and systemic oppression. And, yes, I absolutely do challenge those ideas and institutions. I vehemently challenge abuse of power, violence, and laws that protect those who benefit from such practices.
The Civil Rights Movement didn’t happen because all lives mattered. It happened because many lives were treated as though they didn’t, and those suffering at the hands of inequity stood up and asserted that their lives, choices, rights, conditions, sex, education, access mattered. They said no to the status quo. They disrupted the day to day because injustice became ordinary, natural. This is the same with the French Revolution, the Protestant Reformation, Ghandi’s Salt March, South Africa’s National Day of Protest, the Suffragate Movement, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the list continues.
These movements required community cooperation of all types of people. That type of cooperation can’t happen in denial. Those who benefit from inequity must recognize how they benefit and then be willing to stand up and say ‘it’s not cool if my homies can’t join in the same way’.
It is okay, and essential to vocalize that Black lives matter if we want to ensure and exist in a society where all lives do, in fact, matter.