I am sitting here thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement and all of the great conversations, information, resources, and even memes that have been popping up on my Facebook feed lately. More specifically though, this morning I am thinking about the use of “All Lives Matter” (or some form of it) by well-intended folks who want to emphasize that we are all equal and should be treated that way- Loving and kind people hoping to change the world and end racism. Unfortunately, the reality is that this term is damaging and actively works against our intention to change or shift things- specifically to end racialized injustice. This blog is a little (albeit imperfect) discussion about why -and why we might change the use of “All Lives Matter”.
The term Black Lives Matter is political and it points us to look directly at the different vulnerabilities, pain, inequality, and violence experienced by black folks in our communities - a reality that exists simply because they are not white. This term is critical because it points out the difference that exists solely because of race. When we move to “All Lives Matter” we erase the lens that pushes us to see the racial component. When we literally take race out of the lens it waters the movement down- even immobilizes it. We diminish the possibility for examining what’s happening and initiating change because we are no longer focused on the critical race piece.
Of course all lives matter. In fact I would argue that most people within the Black Lives Matter movement would agree that they do -but this movement is about identifying the different, painful, deadly reality of being black in North America.
Looking at another movement, like endangered animals, might help us to take this apart a little more. When we focus on saving endangered animals, we are not saying that all animals aren’t important (you know how much I love my small petting zoo of animals here). We are saying that animals like the endangered sea turtle need our attention. We are saying we need a different level of response - that we need to understand and explore specifically what is happening to them. We need to shine a light on what is harming them and what needs to be done to save their lives. If our response to “save the sea turtles” were “all animals matter” we could not effectively do the work to take them off the endangered species list.
In the same way, it is critical to place injustices against black folks at the center of our lens (and our words) so that we can effectively identify, call out, and examine what is happening in our communities so that we can better initiate and support real, tangible change.
We love our communities, and all of the people in them but right now our racialized community members need our focus to be here because they are literally dying and their lives matter.