Warning: This post contains a number of generalizations. If you, personally, do not fit into the generalization, that doesn’t invalidate the statement, it makes you an exception. Congratulations, or condolences, as appropriate.
Have I got your attention? Good. The world is feeling a lot of feelings right now, and I understand that. There’s been a lot going on, a lot to process, and almost no time to process it. But for the hundreds of people who are dying, the thousands who live in fear of dying, and the millions who may not fear death but are still actively oppressed, it is our duty to expedite that feelings processing so that we can move onto fixing the problems that plague (pun not intended) our society.
When you hear the phrase “Black Lives Matter” what comes to mind? Is it a group of peaceful protestors, or is it an angry mob? Is it one or two people, or is it a crowd? Do you imagine mostly black people, or are there white, Asian, or Hispanic people mixed in too?
When you hear the phrase “All Lives Matter” what comes to mind? Because for me it’s a phrase that on the surface seems to have the right message, but underneath is hurtful and causes more pain where there is already too much pain. It also seems to come predominantly from white people who, aside from the color of their skin, have other privileges not afforded to everyone in our society — a house to live in, a job that provides reliable income, a safety net of sorts when it begins to crumble. Not everyone who is black is poor, and not everyone who is poor is black, but there is an overrepresentation of non-white skin tones at the lower ends of our socio-economic scales.
For too long, I have sat idly by while the Black Lives Matter movement waves in and out based on current events. I’ve thought “I’m a white man, my voice is not needed here..” — but I’m beginning to think I was wrong. This isn’t about black people claiming what is rightfully theirs, it’s about the rest of us standing up, offering them a hand, and letting them know we’re with them, and will do whatever we are able to help them achieve equality — and doing it.
For decades, nay, centuries, in the United States especially but around the world also, the law and the culture have been configured to treat minorities in general and black people specifically as less-than. Whether it is granting them only 3/5s of the vote of a white man, or assuming that black people are less intelligent, or less capable, or less anything than they truly are. And after centuries of oppression at the hand of the supposedly-superior white man, they come forth with their largely peaceful “Black Lives Matter” protest movement, and what do we do? We throw it back at them and say “No, no no. All lives matter!”
Black people in our society believe their lives are not valued by white people, and All Lives Matter tells them that their belief is invalid. Black people are seeking equality, and All Lives Matter perverts the message to suggest that “Black Lives Matter” means “Only Black Lives Matter.” Black people want recognition of their unfair situation, and All Lives Matter blatantly fails to recognize the pain and oppression not only of the past, but of the present — and if we do not continue to change our culture, the future also.
This isn’t a zero-sum game. Ending the oppression of minorities in our society doesn’t mean we lose. Hundreds of studies have shown that increasing respect for diversity means benefits for everyone, white people included. It’s in our best interests to elevate our black brothers and sisters. All they are asking for is equality — parity. It doesn’t hurt us to give them what they are asking. It hurts us not to.
What can you do? Plenty. Start by educating yourself. Do some reading on the Civil Rights Movement, because there was a lot more than just Martin Luther King Jr. standing in front of President Lincoln’s statue and giving a speech, or Rosa Parks refusing to move. Listen to the stories of black oppression today, and believe them. And if you’re eligible to vote wherever you live, look into the stances of those you are able to vote for or against and learn their positions on things like #BLM. Find ways that you can speak up, whether it’s online or in person. Whether it’s proactive statements, or just reacting to those who belittle — intentionally or otherwise.
Most of all, stop telling people that All Lives Matter. They do, but that’s not the point right now.