Why “All Lives Matter” Is Unhelpful
For many the response to the clarion call, “Black lives matter”, is to respond with “All Lives Matter.” I understand that response for it was my initial reaction, as well. However, I have come to understand that response is unhelpful.
Imagine that your spouse’s mother were to die. Would you say to him/her, “All mothers matter”? I think not, though it be true. He/She would perceive that as condescending, uncaring, unsympathetic, and completely lacking in understanding. You would, rather, relate to him/her as if only the death of his/her mother mattered in that moment. In doing so he/she would feel you relate to his/her pain and grief.
Or imagine that your house is set aflame. You call the fire department. They show up on your street and pull out the hoses. But instead of dousing the flames that are consuming your house, they start hosing down the house next door. You question the Commander why they are hosing down the wrong house. But his response is an unhelpful, “All houses matter.” You would surely be convinced that the Commander was either insane or unfeeling.
Of course, all lives matter. That issue is not up for debate. What we are talking about is racial injustice that has set the nation on fire.
However, the “All Lives Matter” response to the pain of the black community communicates the same unsympathetic, uncaring response to the black community as “All mothers matter” would communicate to your spouse. “All Lives Matter” comes across as a dismissal of the particular plight of blacks. The lack of understanding entertained in ALM says to the African-American community, “I don’t really care,” rightly or wrongly.
Acknowledging that black lives matter expresses concern for the plight of black people as an individual group. “All Lives Matter” can only be true if all black, brown, red, yellow and white lives are recognized as valuable individually.
When we demonstrate understanding particularly to the black community that their lives are valued we will make steps forward.
At the same time it remains helpful to differentiate between the “black lives matter” movement and the “Black Lives Matter” Movement.
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