'All Lives Matter' Is A Racist Cop-Out, And You Know It

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
'All Lives Matter' Is A Racist Cop-Out, And You Know It
Arthur Chu/Twitter

We’ve all heard it in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. “Well, all lives matter,” counter Facebook memes, Twitter posts, Instagram pics, and your nana.

Twitter claps right back in an analogy that says everything:

That’s why your “All Lives Matter” slogan reeks of racism, exceptionalism, and white supremacy. When you say it, you’re saying you don’t care about black civil rights, black bodies, and black folks’ right to live in a world without fear. You’re hiding behind “well, all of us should live that way.”

Except you know your privileged white ass matters. You know that as a white American, as a police officer, your life matters. You’ve always had civil rights — you’re the ones who originally held those truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal (except black people, women, LGBTQIA+ folk, Native Americans, and anyone else you deemed unacceptable). Your bodies are inviolate. You have the right to live in a world without fear. We generally call that “white flight,” i.e., when you leave the scary, scary inner city for the safety of the suburbs. Screw the people you leave behind.

Does that mean your life doesn’t matter?

No. Your life matters.

But right now, when you say “All Lives Matter,” you’re saying, “Look, I know the world is on fire because of police violence against black people right now, which is utterly and unacceptably rampant, but I matter too!” See the above analogy. Your house is not on fire, white people, so we’re ignoring it. At the moment, black communities are a house on fire, and we have to work our damnedest to help them: everyone has to work their damnedest to help them, because that’s what community means. Community doesn’t mean standing back and screaming that you matter too. It means pitching in where you’re most needed.

And right now, we need you to join hands and yell as loud as you can that your black brothers and sisters’ lives matter.

All Lives Matter Gaslights Black People

Think about American history. No, really think about it. Think about its bloody history of oppression, abuse, and racism. Think about slavery. Think about the Orangeburg Massacre. Then think about telling the people who underwent all that injustice at the hands of white people (and you’re probably white) that all lives matter!

You’re gaslighting.

You’re telling people of color that they should question their own oppression. As “Bless the Messy” says in her Facebook post, you try to make “black and people of color question their reality.” That’s called gaslighting, folks. You’re saying, no, you weren’t really oppressed, and even if you were oppressed in the past, the past is the past and you’re not oppressed now. How do you think that makes black people feel? Do you think “All Lives Matter” makes them feel heard? Do you think it reflects their lived experience?


And you say it because you don’t want to deal with the guilt and the shame. When you look black people in the face and say “All Lives Matter,” you say: “I can’t face that people who look like me owned people that looked like you. I can’t face that we live in a society that benefits me and harms you. I can’t face my own guilt and discomfort over our systemic oppression of blacks and people of color.”

All Lives Matters Calls Attention To You… When Someone Else Needs You

When you yell that All Lives Matter, you’re calling attention to yourself. You’re saying “look at me! I matter! I’m important!” Except the spotlight shouldn’t be on you, white person. The spotlight needs to be on the black man who was killed when a police officer knelt on his neck until he died. That’s the reason we say that Black Lives Matter: right now, black lives need a spotlight. They need people fighting for them. They need people to say: your life matters to me. They don’t need a bunch of privileged white people shouting about themselves.

Privileged white people have been doing that shit forever. It’s what privileged white people are good at.

White People Keep Imagining Words That Aren’t There

Vox notes that white people keep on imagining and inserting words into Black Lives Matter because, well, white people. One of the most popular words? “ONLY.” They see Black Lives Matter and think you’re saying ONLY Black Lives Matter, because their exceptionalism makes them hyper-alert to any threat to their own privilege. And unfortunately, to much of any privileged class, any rights granted to the oppressed will be viewed as rights withdrawn from the privileged: as if civil rights are a zero-sum game.

They also see Black Lives Matter as WHITE LIVES DON’T MATTER. This is because, fellow white people, we like to think all the things are about us. All history, all stories, all rhetoric: it all comes down to us.

Black Lives Matter is not about us. It’s about black lives, and how they’re important, and if we white people come into the equation, it’s only as black lives’ importance = white lives’ importance.

And You Knew All This, White People.

Most of all, you understand that “All Lives Matter” was a response to “Black Lives Matter.” The New York Times has been explaining this stuff to you since 2016. You get it. You know where it comes from. You know it’s an attempt to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement and distance yourself from it, to equivocate, to say, “Well, I believe that black lives matter but all lives matter so I think black lives matter and so do all the other people‘s.”

Of course all lives matter, that’s a given — but “all lives” aren’t the ones being imminently threatened. Newsflash: they killed George Floyd while a seventeen-year-old stood by and caught it on camera.

They are killing black people in broad daylight, in the streets, while people watch.


Do you understand now?

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