On Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter

Here’s one answer to people who respond to Black Lives Matter with the inane “All Lives Matter”:

Given America’s history, there is no reason to believe that when white people say “All lives” or “All people” in terms of rights or justice or privilege, such expressions include black people (or POC or Native Americans). When the founding fathers wrote “All men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, we know that did not include black people–or obviously women. And when white women did get to vote, that did not include black women or black men. Similarly, given the state of our justice system and its myriad practices of racial bias, America does not truly want equal rights and justice for black people; otherwise we would have equal rights and justice for black people. “All Americans” should have the right to a fair trial, but that is not the case in the current justice system (nor was it the case when my parents–who were citizens–and my grandparents–who were forbidden by racist laws from becoming citizens–were imprisoned for their race and ethnicity in World War II).  Unarmed black Americans are twice as likely to be shot by police than unarmed white Americans.  If all lives did matter, this would not be the case.

So when white people say “all,” is it any wonder we think: “You mean just yourselves, not us.” As the old black saying goes, We don’t believe what you say because we see what you do.

2 thoughts on “On Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter

  1. While understanding that in the past, US history has oppressed the lives of black people through slavery and segregation, and in the current media we are inundated with images of injustices, for you to generalize that white people who express “All Lives Matter” are just saying it to make themselves feel good is as absurd as suggesting that black police officers only arrest white criminals.
    In reading your blog and your bio, it appears that you are of an asian background. So where do you place yourself in the black lives/all lives conversation, do asian lives matter? Can’t all lives stand under the same umbrella?

    It is true that equal rights for black people has been a slow process but at least there has been a process. Isn’t it all of society that has worked to equalize the rights? Abraham Lincoln fought to end slavery, Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged equal public school funding, and the white jewish community worked to organize and volunteer during the civil rights era. Additionally Juliette Hampton Morgan fought for not just equality bit dignity for all. These white people worked to show that all lives matter and wanted better society not just for themselves but to bring a true meaning to the words written by our founding fathers, “All men are created equal.”

    Instead of dwelling on the wrongdoings of the past isn’t it better to work together to improve the future? When your words suggest whites are self serving, and you say you don’t believe what we say because you see what we do, it too suggests that you are only open the small portion of injustices that are portrayed in the media rather than seeing the bigger picture of the good there is in humanity of all races.

  2. From economics to education to cultural representation to the justice system, statistics show that black lives do not matter in this country as much as white lives–hence, the saying “Black Lives Matter.” Many people want to believe that “the wrong doings of the past” are past. They aren’t. Police brutality and killings of unarmed blacks has been going on throughout our history. Just as importantly, the ideology or ideas of the past are still with us. Slavery’s ideology was based on the idea that blacks are not human, blacks are property and violence can be done to the black body without justification. After the Civil War, a whole area of racist studies viewed the individual crimes of blacks as proof of the criminal nature of all blacks, while the crimes of individual whites were viewed as crimes by individuals (c.f., The Condemnation of Blackness, Khalil Muhammad). These ideas or tropes still shape the thinking and working of our justice system (e.gl, racial disparities in sentencing or in particular the death sentence; blacks and whites smoke marijuana at the same rates but blacks are four times likely to be arrested for marijuana use). And racial inequities exist in all areas of our society, not just our justice system. Black students, even kindergarteners, are suspended at a higher rate that white students. What you deem “the small portion of injustices” are not small to blacks and other people of color. They seem small to you perhaps because you and the white people you know are not affected by these injustices; they’re not part of your lived experience or the experience of your community. Almost every black person I know has said the fear of police enters their minds every time they or their loved ones drive in their cars. If you’re a friend or a relative of Philando Castille, if you are a young black male who knows the same thing could happen to you, how do you think it feels if a white person tells them, “Well, at least there has been a process [towards equal rights]?” As for Asian American lives, it’s very clear that South Asian Americans are now viewed with suspicion, antipathy and discrimination that echoes what Japanese Americans faced during World War II. Yes, they are not being interned as were my mother’s and father’s family. But a significant portion of the white population is in favor of Trump’s Muslim ban (roughly 38% of Trump’s South Carolina supporters wish the South had won the Civil War and think the internment of Japanese Americans was a good thing–this in 2016). To focus on injustices or racist thinking or discrimination doesn’t mean there aren’t white people who want justice for all. It is to say the country is not living up to the ideals it professes. Mindlessly praising those ideals without looking at the reality we live with will not change that reality.

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