Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter

Why There Is An Emphasis On Black Lives

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Jaylin Paschal, Editor-in-Chief

When the #BlackLivesMatter movement came about, many, mostly non-black, especially white, people misinterpreted the message and took offense.

We say “black lives matter” and there is always someone who cringes. They ask “don’t you mean, all lives matter?” And frankly put, no. That’s not what we meant.

We believe that all lives matter, but see that black lives are being treated as disposable and insignificant, so how could we not shout “black lives matter”? How could we not focus on the group that is suffering the most from everything Black Lives Matter–the movement against systemic oppression–is fighting: institutionalized racism, police brutality, mass incarceration, economic apartheid, and racial profiling?

Yes, all lives matter, but no, all lives do not suffer from the evils previously listed.

We say “black lives matter” because you can kill a black teenage boy with Skittles and tea for “looking suspicious” and not be penalized. We say “black lives matter” because a black 12-year-old playing in a park can be shot dead within two seconds of cops’ arrival. We say “black lives matter” because black teen girls, who pose no threat to law enforcement or society, can be manhandled and thrown around by police. We say “black lives matter” because the justice system acts as if they do not. There is a pattern of injustice towards African Americans. A pattern that can be ignored, but not denied.

The truth is, if any of the previously mentioned victims had been white, they would either still be alive, or their murderers would be behind bars. That is the difference. White lives are considered to be valuable, therefore killing innocent white people is unjust. You get in trouble for hurting or harassing white people. The same cannot be said for people of color. We know white lives matter, and the justice system knows that, too.

This is not to say that white lives, or all lives, do not suffer. We all suffer. But from what? If the evil is systemic, then you should be on board with the “Black Lives Matter” movement, as we tackle systematic demons. But if not, understand that there is a difference between being offended and being oppressed. Not all struggles are struggles of oppression. And if your struggle is not oppressive–restrictive, but not oppressive–rejoice in that fact. Be glad that there is no need to rally for your life.

Furthermore, if you truly believe that all lives matter, you would not be offended by an emphasis on black lives. Just as you would not be offended by the statement “gay lives matter.” In fact, you’d probably grab a rainbow flag and shout it with them. You would not pollute a protest with your own agenda and phrase, just as you would not scream “ALL DISEASES MATTER” at a cancer fundraiser. In fact, you’d probably donate to the cause, recognizing that cancer ruins the lives of many. You know that advocating for the preservation of rainforests does not imply all other forests can be burned. Black lives matter is not to be understood with an “only” in front of it, but rather with a “too” at the end.

All lives matter. This is an axiom that has always and will always drive social movements for equality. This axiom is the very reasoning behind the passionate exclamation “black lives matter,” as it seeks to bring inequality directly to the public’s attention. Although the “versus” in the headline of this article implies conflict or contradiction, this is not so. It’s not black lives matter or all lives matter, but rather black lives matter because all lives matter.