Saying 'All Lives Matter' Means You Don't Understand The Black Lives Matter Movement

Saying 'All Lives Matter' Means You Don't Understand The Black Lives Matter Movement

Focus, not exclusion.


Flashback to a few weeks ago: I remember scrolling through social media and noticing the same few people post their condolences for the police officers killed in the Dallas protest with the infamous hashtag #AllLivesMatter. My initial reaction was quick outrage, not because I don’t sympathize with cop lives, believe me, you and I both know a few bad cops don’t represent the majority, but because they had never taken to time to express sympathy towards the black victims of police brutality in the past week.

An underlying notion exists in our country that if you are pro-black you are anti-cop and vice versa, but we have to recognize that although not all cops are racist an undeniable disparity in our criminal justice system exists. Young black men are nine times more likely to be killed by police officers. Despite making up only 2 percent of the U.S. population, African-Americans made up more than 15 percent of all deaths in 2015 at the hands of unjust force by the police.

The Black Lives Matter movement was created when Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime as a call to action and response to the venomous anti-black rhetoric that permeates our society. It goes beyond the narrow nationalism which calls for black people to love black people, but seeks to broaden the conversation around state violence to openly discuss how black people are deliberately left powerless as the hands of the state.

"Since we know that the system will not change the rues, we are going to have to change the system," Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are two types of people who insist on using the all lives matter hashtag – those who think they are promoting shared humanity and those who simply deny that racism still exists. To support Black lives matter is not to imply other lives don’t, but to recognize that ALL lives do matter, and to realize African-Americans are unjustly targeted for no reason. The movement is about focus, not exclusion.

To those who haven’t been exposed to the sociocultural divide, explaining that using All Lives Matter to undercut the Black Lives Matter is not only borderline racist, but does more harm than good is difficult. The following statements seek to prove that all lives have never mattered equally and saying all lives matter suggests that all people are in equal danger, invalidating specific problems of black people and other minorities in general. All lives didn’t matter when our country made every excuse to refuse Syrian refugees entry because of their religion. All Lives didn’t matter when KKK marchers were protected under “freedom of speech,” but peaceful black protestors were arrested. All lives didn’t matter when a dead gorilla received more sympathy and media coverage than the thousands of lost lives daily in the Middle East. All lives didn’t matter when parts of American history were erased from our textbooks to make America seem like the good guy. All lives didn’t matter when the U.S. government forced over 120,000 Japanese-Americans into interment camps at the outbreak of WWII. All lives didn’t matter when 1,134 victims of police brutality were murdered, but do when five cops were killed.

You get the idea.

The black liberation movement heightens issues like unemployment and systemic injustice; police brutality was merely a manifestation resulting from centuries of implicit and explicit racism. Today, saying “black lives matter” goes beyond “stop killing us,” but aims to celebrate intersectionality of all forms. It demands the full extent of humanity to be acknowledged and cherished; queer, trans, migrant, disabled, and formerly incarcerated folks should all be subject to the human rights campaign we all deserve. Black is beautiful.

This isn’t a civil rights movement or black movement, but a human one. It is imperative that we all speak up and speak out for our black brothers and sisters across the globe, struggling to feel safe and accepted. Don’t stay silent in the face of injustice, use your privilege to make a difference. We shall overcome.

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