OPINION: ‘All Lives Matter’ obscures black Americans’ reality

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Photo courtesy of Frankie Cordoba / Unsplash

Throughout recent years, police brutality has taken center stage as one of the most pressing justice issues in America. While the police mistreating and in some cases killing people, especially black people, has been a problem for decades, the more recent invention of smartphones has led to such actions being recorded, allowing bystanders to spread the true horror of these actions across the internet, and therefore, the world. 

In 2013, Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, seventeen years old African American teenager, was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who directly disobeyed law enforcement instructions in the moments leading to Martin’s death. It took weeks for Zimmerman to be charged with second degree murder, only to ultimately be found not guilty of all charges, according to editorial research from CNN. Both during the trial and following Zimmerman’s acquittal, civil outrage sparked across the country, giving birth to the Black Lives Matter movement, founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.

Black Lives Matter, or BLM for short, describes itself as “an ideological and political intervention in a world where black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted,” according to details from the official BLM website. More than 40 chapters of the BLM movement work to end violence inflicted on black communities by both the state and individuals. Not only has BLM used its continually growing platform to fight against racism, they say, but they seek to include those often overlooked in black liberation movements, such as women and queer and transgender people (trans women of color have a life expectancy of 35 years, which is less than half that of their cisgender counter parts). BLM has been incredibly dedicated to the fight against forces which continue to oppress black people, as well as white supremacy, through peaceful protests, petitions, social media, and other political actions, for the past six years.

As BLM continues to grow in influence, so has the use of the response slogan “All Lives Matter” from some who criticize motives and tactics from people affiliated with the BLM movement. While at a quick glance, the phrase “All Lives Matter” seems harmless and correct, using it as a response or counter to “Black Lives Matter” is incredibly dangerous for minority communities, especially African Americans. When Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi co-founded their movement, they named it “Black Lives Matter,” not “Black Lives Matter More” or “Only Black Lives Matter.” BLM is not about the superiority of black people, but rather how black lives need to be fought for more than those of their white counterparts in America, as they are at a significantly higher risk to be victims of police brutality, go to prison for drug charges, and experience many other examples of systematic racism which still plague our country. 

So why shouldn’t you use the phrase “All Lives Matter”? Well, the answer is a matter of equity in order to reach equality. For example, imagine you are a school nurse and in front of you stands three children: Child A and Child B, who are both fine and healthy, and Child C, who fell and badly cut their knee. You aren’t going to, in response, say “All Children Matter” and give a small amount of Neosporin and one-third of a Band-Aid to all three of them. These three children don’t need an equal response from you, as a caregiver, as they aren’t in the same position. Child C requires more of your immediate attention and care so that they can heal and reach a health state on equal footing with Child A and Child B.

All Lives Matter, yes, but currently, black lives are at a greater risk simply for existing, so they require people’s advocacy and attention with more focus than on “all” people (meaning people who do not suffer from systematic racism). By saying “All Lives Matter” as a response to “Black Lives Matter,” you are only hurting the movements who fight for the equality of people of color and further strengthening the systems of racism which exist in America.