Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/
The one time I saw #alllivesmatter used offline was on the back window of a pick-up truck as I was preparing to join the highway. Notably enough, there was also a Confederate Flag sticker almost directly next to it. I really don’t think this should come as a suprise to anyone, and I’m going to tell you why. It’s because saying “all lives matter” as innocuous as it seems to be when taken at face value, has a hideous context when its used as a blanket statement to silence people of the #blacklivesmatter movement- or just anyone who speaks up for black lives in general.
It pretty much goes without saying that “all lives matter”- but #blacklivesmatter was created because it was- and is- a lot less obvious that the lives of people of color are of any value at all. Sure, white people are stilled killed by police more than black people- but percentage-wise, black people are killed by police two and a half times more often than their white counterparts.
It wouldn’t be necessary to make a big fuss about the full moon being in the sky on the expected night- but have that moon turn to blood and people are going to start talking. As it is right now, blood is being shed- particularly that of African American men- and people are not coming up with sufficient answers as to why. Why would a police officer find it justifiable to shoot a man four times, when the man plainly stated that he was reaching for his wallet? Did the color of his skin indicate that he could not be trusted or believed, even with his girlfriend and four year-old daughter looking on? How could police justify restraining an unarmed man and then shooting him- while he was still restrained?
So yes, all lives matter- everyone knows that. We’re just not so sure if you know that black lives are a part of all lives. We don’t criticize your assertion that all lives matter- we criticize your use of #alllivesmatter as a way of undermining the validity of #blacklivesmatter and other related movements.
A parallel for this is feminism as it is defined by its adherents. It is often defined as a movement for equality across the sexes. So some could argue, “Why emphasize females in the title, then?” The reason is quite clear- it’s because it is females overall that are suffering the most from the inequality. It’s called feminism to bring attention to the fact that females are struggling the most with gaining visibility and acceptance, even though the struggle extends to some men as well.
In the same way, saying “black lives matter” doesn’t mean that only black lives matter, it’s only trying to emphasize what seems to be lost to many people in this country- black lives matter, too. It’s interesting to note that #alllivesmatter only popped up after #blacklivesmatter had gained momentum, providing further evidence of the divisive and undermining nature of it.
A female police officer was upset because some people took offense at a picture of her with her daughter, with the caption “her life matters”. Again, it’s important to note that nobody was upset at her message- that she loved her daughter and that her life was valuable- but rather at her choice of words. Affixing “her life matters” to the picture- especially since she was a police officer- was yet another subtle attempt at erasure of the #blacklivesmatter movement. Saying “her life matters” made it seem like saying “black lives matter” was just trite and redundant- of course black lives matter, just like the life of a daughter of a police officer. As I’ve pointed out, however, people in a privileged position like that of the officer’s daughter cannot be fairly compared to people of color who are being jailed in mass quantities and being shot unarmed in the streets. The government system- and in some ways the general public as well- are clearly valuing some lives over others, and that needs to be acknowledged- not just tossed aside by the banal, empty assurances like those given who support #alllivesmatter.
So yes, we know; all lives matter. The only problem is that not everyone seems to know or believe that, and movements like #blacklivesmatter are going to continue to be necessary until we have fully erased inequality and injustice.