Trying to explain to friends, family or colleagues “what’s the matter with saying All Lives Matter?” Having a hard time finding the right words, or not really sure yourself? The phrase has become a lightning rod with serious consequences, just one example: a sportscaster has lost his job for saying it.
Saying “Black Lives Matter” has never meant that other’s lives don’t matter. Being specific about Black Lives brings attention and urgency to the injustice and suffering that Blacks have endured over centuries of racism and discrimination. The mistreatment of Black people stems from slavery, and is still deeply ingrained in our everyday lives: our criminal justice system, our institutions, the media, our unconscious biases.
When we replace “Black” with “All” we discount the Black experience. “All” are not dealing with the systemic and systematic racism that the Black community deals with every.single.day. When we say “Black Lives Matter” we recognize, support, and appreciate the brilliance, resilience, and limitless potential of our Black colleagues and friends.
While some good-intentioned people may have said “All Lives Matter” not knowing this background, many white supremacy groups have taken it as a mantra. That’s why those of us who care about equality, diversity and inclusion are extremely cautious around the phrase. In our current societal construct, it has become a loaded term that doesn’t mean that all lives are valued.
Here are some other ways to think about it: