Why “All Lives Matter” Does Not Support The Fight For Equality
Until all lives matter in the eyes of society, we’ll be focusing on black ones.
Since the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis last week, protests have erupted globally as a response to the dangerous —and often fatal— racial prejudice felt by black people in the United States and around the world. Black Lives Matter, an international movement that fights against racial inequality and violence against black people, is behind the majority of these protests. The phrase “black lives matter” is used by protestors and activists to emphasize the ways in which society consistently undervalues black lives. However, many people have also adopted the phrase “all lives matter,” as well as or instead of “black lives matter”. At surface-level, this might seem like a fairly harmless message; of course all lives matter, and it is unlikely that many black people would argue with that.
But there’s a problem with using the phrase “all lives matter” in the context of a movement that campaigns against violence specifically towards black people. The phrase demonstrates, at best, a lack of understanding of the movement and, at worst, a refusal to accept that the current systems of oppression must change.
According to a study, in 2015 and 2016, 7.2 per million African Americans were killed by police, while the figure for white Americans was 2.9 per million. The purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement is to shed light on and fight back against police brutality that disproportionately affects black people and the prejudice that causes it. It demands that leaders and others in positions of power recognize the systemic oppression of black people and take action to change and improve the situation. Using the phrase “all lives matter” removes focus from the movement and dismisses its message. Whether intentionally or not, its usage takes momentum from the fight for justice and functions to uphold existing social structures that systematically oppress black people.
If society truly believed that all lives mattered, there would be no need for these protests to begin with. If all lives mattered in the eyes of the police, George Floyd would not have been murdered by a white police officer while three other officers stood by and he begged for his life. Until the systemic oppression of black people is ended, we will continue to hold oppressors accountable and remind them that black lives matter, too.
Next up, Why #BlackOutTuesday Is Regressive