This has been a pretty depressing week for humanity.  Fresh off the tragedies of the Pulse nightclub shooting and terrorist attacks in Baghdad, we learn that there have been two incidents of police brutality resulting in the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

NB: Please note that I am not an expert in this subject. I am learning new information, adjusting my perspective and reeling from the horrific details just the same as you.  However, I did feel compelled to share some of my feelings with full acknowledgement that I am not an authority and that my voice is aiming to come from a position of support and alliance. 

In the wake of these murders (yes, murders), social media has come to life with people sharing articles, videos of the murders, photos of protests and, inevitably, their opinion on the matter. Thankfully, most of my newsfeed has been filled with intelligent articles and sincere opinions expressing devastation, anger, helplessness and the need for change.  And even when others comment on these posts with misguided messages of racism and ignorance, they are quickly and powerfully shown the errors in their thinking.

However, there is one message that I have seen on social media that really disturbs me: All Lives Matter.

At first, this message seems harmless. Of course all lives matter! Who would be arguing that they don't? But that's not really what this message is saying in the context in which it is being posted.

"All Lives Matter" is being posted in response to "Black Lives Matter."  It is being used as a correction.  It is fundamentally changing a movement. And here is why that's so incredibly wrong:

1) As this law professor brilliantly pointed out, if you have a problem with the BLM movement it's because you are inserting the word "only" before Black Lives Matter.  The movement is not saying that only black lives matter. They are not saying you can only be pro-black and anti-cop or anti-black and pro-cop (thanks to Trevor Noah for explaining this one).  You are not being asked to leave anyone behind in supporting the life and liberty of an extremely disadvantaged and discriminated against group of people.  It's not like there is a quota for how many lives can matter. "Oh, black lives matter now? Guess we'll have to stop caring about someone else. White lives have mattered long enough, right? Let's switch them." 

2) By changing the conversation from BLM to ALM you are fundamentally ignoring the issue at hand. In the song "White Privilege II" it is explained: Black Lives Matter, to use an analogy, is like if... if there was a subdivision and a house was on fire. The fire department wouldn't show up and start putting water on all the houses because all houses matter. They would show up and they would turn their water on the house that was burning because that's the house that needs the help the most. In another example: this would be like going in for heart surgery but deciding that all organs matter so we should do surgery on all of them. Not all organs need surgery right now.  Not all groups are facing the same institutional racism and oppression as black people are namely at the hands of the police.  

3) No one is saying you don't have issues too.  By promoting Black Lives Matter no one is saying that there aren't issues of racism, discrimination, etc. within other groups of marginalized people.  The Pulse nightclub shooting was discrimination based on sexual orientation, the recent terrorist attacks were based on religious discrimination. So yes, other groups of people are being attacked. But that is not this issue. A movement is strongest when it is focused.  BLM has identified a group that is statistically more prone to unjust police discrimination and brutality.  It is not the job of this movement to identify and protect all groups who face all types of discrimination.  To make an example, you wouldn't go into a PETA meeting and ask what they're doing about homelessness - that's not their issue.  And by supporting PETA, you're not saying that homelessness doesn't matter.

4) I've noticed that the majority of "All Lives Matter" statuses are being posted by white people (now this may just be on my social media channels, but I doubt it).  The issue here is that white people are inserting themselves into the wrong place in the movement.  There is a place within the BLM movement for people who are not black.  As a non-black person, you are welcomed as a supporter, an ally and a positive voice.  I understand that it may be tricky to find your place; I'm not black and I am still discovering how best to support his movement.  However, I know that it is not my job to steal the spotlight.  I do nothing for this movement by making it about myself.  This reminds me of attending the Black History Month Assembly every February in high school.  Inevitably, there would always be someone who would complain, "Why do we have a Black History Month? We don't have a White History Month."  Kid, every month is white history month.  White history is written into the curriculum, sung in our national anthem and celebrated with stat holidays.  We don't have a White History Month because we don't need one.

By changing BLM to ALM, you are essentially re-discriminating against black people by once again making white people the centre of an issue and pushing the black community to the side.

5) I'm sure there are countless more reasons why the All Lives Matter statement is harmful, ignorant and an incredibly negative and racist response to Black Lives Matter. I'm sure there are hundreds and thousands of people better informed than myself who could share these reasons. I look forward to learning more and discovering them for myself. 

 

Above all, I urge you to think critically.  Read the statements above and try to justify the use of "All Lives Matter."  I sincerely believe you won't be able to do so.  The majority of people I know who have spread the ALM message are not doing so maliciously.  However, they are uninformed or ignorant of its effect.  I hope that we can all keep an open mind and continue to challenge ourselves by asking questions, learning new information and shifting our perspectives.  There is so much I am still seeking to understand about this movement and my place within it but I hope that I continue to do so because silence is definitely not the answer.  

Published by Riana Autumn