What “Black Lives Matter” Means, and Why Saying “All Lives Matter” Misses the Point

As protests against racist police brutality cross the United States and spread worldwide, cries of “Black Lives Matter” ring out in our streets and digital avenues. As we digest all the information and think about how to react and participate at such a crucial time, it’s important to recognize what Black Lives Matter really means – and why the phrase “All Lives Matter” is problematic.

At first glance, “All Lives Matter” sounds like a declaration that we are all-in-one. Some may use the expression to suggest that all races should join forces and unite against racism, a sentiment that comes from a good place. But the problem is that the phrase diverts the attention of those who need it. Saying “All Lives Matter” redirects the attention of black lives, who are at risk.

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Instead, it’s important to understand what drives the BLM movement and how to support it – using the expression and supporting what it means. This can be an uncomfortable experience for many of us, especially if you are someone who has not taken the time to tackle your own role in the systemic oppression that exists in our society. But it is also an essential education, no matter where you are on your journey.

What does Black Lives Matter mean?

Black Lives Matter is an anthem, slogan, hashtag and simple statement of fact. Although this is not a new movement, the message is at the heart of the national events taking place today. BLM denounces police brutality and systemic racism that caused the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor, as well as the thousands of violent incidents that happen to black people who are not registered, are not reported or are not given the outrage they deserve. At its most basic level, it calls for a change in statistics as blacks are twice as likely being killed by an unarmed policeman, compared to a white man. African Americans died at the rate of police according to 2015 study 7.2 per million, while whites were killed at a rate of 2.9 per million.

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One of the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement is to raise awareness that we, as a nation, need to reconsider our priorities. Right now there are American institutions and systems that act like black people live do not matter. For example, according to an American Progress report, in 2015, each of the 10 states with the highest percentage of black residents reported state and local police spending of more than $ 230 per capita per year. This is at least 328 times more than what each state spends to enforce anti-discrimination laws.

How did Black Lives Matter start?

While racism in the United States dates back hundreds of years to the founding of the country, the Black Lives Matter timeline began much more recently. The movement was born out of the acquittal of George Zimmerman after killing Trayvon Martin in 2013. Today, the Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc. is a global organization active in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, although it has supporters around the world.

The BLM’s guiding principles are to eradicate white supremacy and to intervene in violence inflicted on black communities through advocacy, fundraising and education. The organization aims to combat and counter violence, to amplify the innovation of blacks and to center the joy of blacks.

Why is missing the point of saying “All lives count”

While the phrase “All Lives Matter” may be intended to put everyone’s lives on an equal footing and convey a sense of unity, responding “All Lives Matter” to “Black Lives Matter” is actually more source of division than unification. Indeed, it reduces and decreases the attention paid to the violence and discrimination that black people face every day in this country.

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It is a natural reaction to respond to a group focusing their experience on “But what about all lives?” or “Isn’t my safety important too?” But the truth is that black Americans are disproportionately affected by police violence and systematic racism in our country. Our whole social structure is centered on whiteness by default. Affirm that “All Lives Matter” reaffirms – or at best ignores – this reality. Of course, every life is precious, but everyone’s life is not in danger because of the color of their skin. Saying “Black Lives Matter” is not the same as saying that other lives don’t, but rather that black lives should matter as much as white lives.

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Alicia Garza, one of the creators of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, explained in 2014 how black lives count for all lives that matter:

“Black Lives Matter does not mean that your life is not important – it means that black lives, which are considered to be worthless within white supremacy, are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact of state violence on black lives, we understand that when black people in this country are free, the benefits will be broad and transformative for society as a whole. When we are able to end hypercrime and sexualization of blacks and ending poverty, control and surveillance of black people, everyone in this world has a better chance of getting and staying free. When black people are free everyone is free . “

Think of it this way: if you fall in a car accident and one person is seriously injured in the head but the others have some bumps and bruises, the person whose life is in danger has priority in terms of care medical. This does not mean that paramedics will not help the rest of the passengers, but this triage puts the most serious situation first. Or, to put it another way, if someone continues to set your house on fire, you would like the firefighters to do something. Wouldn’t you mind if, instead, people kept telling you that “all houses are important”, if yours was the one that was burning?

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Why black life still counts

For those of us who work for equality for all, it is important not to see color, but to work on leveling the playing field. It is a sad reality that the experience of blacks in America is not the same as the non-black experiences, both seemingly small and incredibly great. If you’ve purchased adhesive bandages, tights, or foundation, you know what the default color range is. Many workplaces and schools are still ban natural hairstyles or look at them as less “professional”.

More than half of African Americans also report being victims of racial discrimination at work, ranging from interviews at lower rates to disparities in pay and promotion. And the American Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities which was created to fight discrimination in the workplace is too underfunded to respond adequately. In 2018, the EEOC obtained $ 505 million for victims of discrimination, but the agency’s lack of resources created a backlog of nearly 50,000 charges. Getting around the world is just easier for non-blacks in America, and it is high time that we recognize it. Only then can we work to fix it.

How to get involved

The first step in fighting racism in our society is listening, no matter who you are. It hurts to hear that you might be prejudiced, especially if you consider yourself to be an open-minded person. But instead of putting yourself on the defensive or intervening to immediately explain your own point of view, listen to other points of view, including those of black change-makers, elected officials, celebrities, friends and colleagues . Push prejudice into your own social circles, even if it requires awkward conversations. And educate yourself on your own inherent bias, even if you don’t think you have it. Vote in your national and national elections to contribute to change on a larger platform. And support racial justice organizations monetarily if you can, and share their messages on social media so that others can also get the information.

“Follow the example of black leadership and your own local city and state,” said Patrisse Cullors, co-founder and president of Reform L.A. Nightline. She cited Dignity and Power Now and the Youth Justice Coalition as starting points. “These are just a few organizations that help in these times when we have people who are upset and [in] pain, anger, mourning, “she added.” There are hundreds of thousands of other organizations across the country. “

We can all work together to dismantle the racial prejudices that underlie virtually every aspect of our country and our world. This is a difficult work. It is uncomfortable. But nothing is worth doing. There is nothing more important than creating a world in which our children will not have to be afraid of crossing an unknown neighborhood, of going to observe the birds, to buy a bag of skittles, to navigate in a upscale store or even ask a police officer for help, regardless of their skin color.

Lizz Schumer is an editor for Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day and Prevention, covering pets, culture, lifestyle, books and entertainment.

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