Social media networks are full of hashtag battles between #BlackLivesMatter and the response of #AllLivesMatter. Strong opinions on both sides insist that they are expressing a desire for justice and human dignity. We take a look at both sides of the debate, asking whether it is effective for the BLM movement to protest only for Black Lives, or if the winning call to arms should instead be All Lives Matter.
Three reasons why Black Lives Matter should focus only on Black Lives
Black Americans aren’t qualified to speak for other people of color
Every minority has its own unique experience of marginalization, exclusion and abuse which differs from one group to the next. Because the racism suffered by each minority takes a different form, it is unrealistic and unfair to both Black Americans and Americans from other minorities to request that the BLM movement speaks for anyone but themselves. Black Lives Matter activists only know what it is like to live as black people in America; they should not take upon themselves to speak for Latin-Americans, Asian-Americans or Hispanic Americans. Speaking up for another group, instead of speaking up from within a group, means taking the microphone away from that minority’s own activists and can be seen as a form of silencing them.
Fighting for the cause that matters most to you doesn’t undermine other causes
There are many causes to fight for in the world, but it is natural for each of us to feel the most passion about the cause which comes closest to home. Black Americans experience a unique level of racism in America and are understandably going to mourn their own dead first. The BLM’s huge desire to save their own families from abuse lends power to their cause which we cannot expect them to feel for any other fight. The BLM’s focus on Black Lives does not undermine the worthiness of any other minority’s fight against racism or of any other social justice issue; it merely indicates that this is the issue which they are communicating right now. The point was brilliantly illustrated by this tweet:
saying #AllLivesMatter is like running through a cancer fundraiser & saying “THERE’S OTHER DISEASES TOO”
‘All Lives Matter’ perpetuates racism by refusing to allow Black people to express their unique experiences of suffering without diluting it with that of other minorities.
It extends privilege to other groups at the expense of Black Americans
Although everyone on both sides agrees that all lives matter, the “All Lives Matter” slogan is frequently hijacked to undermine the BLM message in favor of other people of color. When a #BlueLivesMatter hashtag was added to support policemen, it was used to oppose #BlackLivesMatter” (as opposed to just a real sense of humanism). This was further shown in 2016 when 10,000 people protested in support Peter Liang, a Chinese-American policeman who was jailed for killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man. Many of Liang’s supporters shouted ‘All Lives Matter’, claiming that he was a scapegoat because he was not white and that he should not be jailed. However, Black activists pointed out that Liang was tried by a jury of his peers and deserved to be jailed for his actions. Using ‘All Lives Matter’ to demand freedom for someone who was convicted of murdering an unarmed black man is nothing more than demanding that white privilege be extended to all people of color except for Black Americans.
Three Reasons why All Lives Matter is a better call to arms
It recognizes the persecution of other minorities
Black Americans are not the only minority group to suffer discrimination. The slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ ignores the way that the lives of other minorities have also been treated as cheap and unimportant over the centuries. By shouting ‘Jews will not replace us’ at the recent Neo-Nazi march in Charlotteville, racists and fascists showed that they don’t distinguish between minorities. It is adding insult to injury to single out only one minority as deserving of protests, rallies and hashtags of support. Furthermore, there is a better chance of succeeding in the fight against racism, if anti-rascist activists can bring a unified voice, resources and action to the struggle.
It focuses attention on the problem of white privilege
White privilege is not only a problem because it discriminates against Blacks, but because it discriminates against anyone who is not a white heterosexual male. Shouting ‘Black Lives Matter’ could move the focus away from white privilege and towards the black experience. Because the hashtag seems to reiterate that what matters are Black lives, it risks shining the spotlight on only one small aspect of a much bigger and more problematic issue. The ‘All Lives Matter’ motto can serve as an umbrella slogan that opposes restricting privilege to just one group, instead of potentially implying that the problem could be solved if only Black Americans were included in the said privilege.
#BlackLivesMatter can hurt the cause
When Martin Luther King Jr led the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s he called for equal rights for everyone. All Lives Matter promotes this message of shared humanity. In contrast, Black Lives Matter implies that Black Lives matter more than those of other Americans. It could even create more harm than good by giving the impression that to Black activists, non-Black lives actually don’t matter. For example, when the Republican State Committee in Massachusetts wanted to put out a statement condemning hate groups in the wake of the Charlottesville protests, one member Martin Lamb, asked that it include BLM. He said that BLM and other left-wing activist organizations promote anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hatred “against me and my people to the same extent as those white supremacists and need to be named.” If the BLM were to embrace the #AllLivesMatter slogan, it would show that they care for all minorities, thus making it harder to oppose.
Bottom line: The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was both smart and just, and it was successful in its struggle. The work is not done, and it remains to be seen which is the best path for change is in 2017. Which rally would you prefer to join, The Black lives Matter one or the All lives matter one?