America has always had its fair share of racial tension, but those tensions exploded into protests after the murder of George Floyd. On May 25, 2020, Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin handcuffed the 46-year-old and put his knee on his neck by for close to nine minutes. Even though Floyd said he couldn’t breathe, begged for his mother and bystanders pleaded for him, Chauvin didn’t let up and an autopsy later revealed that the pressure on his neck contributed to his death, according to CNN.
The following protests have gone global. Black Lives Matter has been chanted across the world, but it’s also met some resistance. The opposing All Lives Matter found its way into the racial discussion. Many people feel Black Lives Matter takes away from the struggles that other races face and singles out black people as being better or superior. This simply isn’t true. People saying All Lives Matter may mean well, but I believe that phrase ultimately silences black people from voicing their experience and desires for change.
Saying ‘All Lives Matter’ Dismisses Black Pain
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, said it best when speaking to The New York Times: “The entire point of Black Lives Matter is to illustrate the extent to which black lives have not mattered in this country.”
The Black Lives Matter movement is all about bringing awareness to the struggles of black people. The official website for the Black Lives Matter Foundation says that it was created in 2013 after the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman. Not only is Zimmerman still free, but he has also tried to profit from Martin’s death. He attempted to auction off the gun he killed Martin with and The Guardian reported that he tried to sell his autograph to raise money for his defense fund in the Trayvon Martin case. Mind you, this is an autograph that would most likely have had no value if Zimmerman had not been known for killing Martin.
Since then, a number of black people have been killed by the police and their killers are still free. This includes Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her home as she slept, and Philando Castile, whose death was recorded on a cop car’s dashcam.
These deaths speak to the everyday realities of black people in America.
The reality that black parents have to speak to their sons about making sure they get home safely at the end of the day. The reality that their sons may not be able to do all the things their friends can because of racial bias. The reality that hair discrimination means some black people can’t wear their natural hair in school or at work.
Black Lives Matter Does Not Mean Only Black Lives Matter
Of course, all lives matter. Everyone’s life is precious and deserving. We all should be living in a world free of police violence, where equity is freely available and no one has to worry about being harmed for some aspect of their life they can’t change. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Not just black people, but many people across the world live a reality that is unfair to them. Black Lives Matter is a necessary movement meant to bring awareness to the unique discrimination black people face for simply being black.
When wildfires seemingly engulfed all of Australia, it would have been shocking to see signs saying, “All countries matter,” or “All wildfires should be extinguished” — even though that’s technically true. It would be insensitive and hurtful to say “All lives matter,” to East Asian people when discussing their experiences with hatred and discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as these experiences are devastating to the specific communities they have affected, police brutality is particularly devastating to the Black community.
The now-famous burning house video has gone viral because it makes the concept easy to understand. If one house is on fire you don’t throw water on every house. You throw water on the house that needs it right now.
@giv.sharpngl this is how some of y’all sound :/ ##blm ##fyp♬ original sound – giv.sharp
West Texas A&M University football player Semaj Mitchell also explained it well in this Tweet:
If you break your arm and go to the doctor, and the doctor says “all your bones matter, not just your arm.” You’re gonna look at them stupid because yes, all your bones matter but they are fine, your arm needs attention rn.
BLM is that arm, saying all lives matter is redundant.
— Semaj Mitchell (@semajmitchell12) May 28, 2020
Maybe on your birthday, you shouldn’t just have a party for yourself but for everyone who’s ever also been born on that day. Heck, maybe we should celebrate everyone’s birthday every day because all birthdays matter. You get the idea.
Black Lives Matter doesn’t assume that other races don’t fall victim to police brutality. But the threat is much greater for black people. The Washington Post reported that while 13% of people in the U.S. are black, they are twice as likely as white people to be killed by police.
For All Lives To Matter, Black Lives Have To Matter, Too
Oppression is not a competition. We can acknowledge the value of black lives without taking away from the value of anyone else’s. Caring about black people doesn’t mean you will lose the ability to care about other people. The BLM website acknowledges this: “We acknowledge, respect, and celebrate differences and commonalities. We work vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people.”
Hofstra University professor of rhetoric Tomeka Robinson told CBS that people who say, “All Lives Matter” in response to those talking about Black Lives Matter are taking the racial issues out of a topic that needs to be focused on race.
“It is tone deaf, and they don’t get that what they’re saying is de-racializing a movement, but there are certainly some bad actors that absolutely are using it as a way to silence and a tool of further oppression to say, like, ‘We shouldn’t deal with this, this is not a real issue, this is not an American issue,'” she said.
To me, this makes perfect sense. When you disrupt the power imbalances that affect everyone, you create a level playing field where equity and understanding are at the center of it all.
Black Lives Matter isn’t just a statement; it’s a call to action. It’s an awakening. It’s an understanding that black people have been brutalized by the very people sworn to protect everyone — and that needs to change.