If All Lives Matter, why is it a problem for you when I say, “Black Lives Matter?” Don’t you get that’s why I have to say it? Because the mere mention of my life bothers you. And why is that? Do you think I’m saying it for no reason? Like I got all the time in the world and I’m gonna choose to spend it talking about Black lives just because? “Hello…McFly…” I ain’t got time for that. We’re dying in the streets, in the back of police cars, being locked up at a rate of 11:1, being beaten at the pool, on the lawn, at the mall. We fill the jails. And this ain’t for play. I got plenty reason. And your issue with this is that I say “Black” instead of “All?” C’mon now.
There is nothing wrong with supporting all lives. There is something contradictory about squelching the exclamation of Black Lives under the guise of All Lives. If you say that All Lives Matter and then I say that Black Lives Matter (effectively agreeing with you), the statements are sequential. The theory goes that All Lives Matter and so Black Lives must matter. But that is not the reality that we live and the “All Lives Matter” that I hear is usually to contrast our “Black Lives Matter.”
Your “but, ALL Lives Matter” suggests that I shouldn’t cry out in the very real pain that I feel – the hurt, the disgust, the anger - “Black Lives Matter!” Tell me, how can All Lives Matter when I can’t even say, “Black Lives Matter” without you trying to silence me?
This note was inspired by a conversation that I had recently with a good friend of mine who was frustrated from having to defend herself every time she said that Black Lives Matter. The presence of that struggle is a testament to the need for that struggle and the insidious disease we are fighting.
I want you to know that no matter what side you’re on here, I got love for you. I need you to know that it’s completely understandable that, given your experiences, you believe what you believe – assuming you’re as “rational” as the rest of us. But we must acknowledge that different experiences lead to different rationales; and intent does not always equal impact.
To get us closer to a common perspective, let’s share in an experience. Recently, I lost a brother. We lost a neighbor, PM Deacon Julius Johnson. I participated in his memorial service. I wasn’t as close to Mr. Johnson as I would’ve liked to be; but I’ve known him for years and felt his loss in my spirit – someone that was a pillar of love, joy and wisdom – an example for me in our fraternity. Our community lost a beautiful soul. I will miss him. Imagine how his close friends and family must have felt when they found out. Imagine tears making a river into the funeral home; and when there’s finally a long enough gap between the sobs, one of the staff get genuinely, caringly close, and with a gentile hand on the back says, “You know All Lives Matter. Just remember that while you’re crying, ok? It’s not just about his life. All..Lives…Matter (three small fist pumps).” No one was silly enough to take space at his memorial to exclaim that All Lives Matter. Now of course we can argue that our Julius didn’t die from police brutality or at the “hands” of the worst racial disparities in the nation. But common to the Black Lives Matter Movement, there is the very real feeling of loss and despair.
Remember that time you lost someone close to you? Or when your friend lost someone close to them? What good would it have done them to be reminded that All Lives Matter every time they exclaimed that they missed that person – that they wished that person was still alive? I’m hoping that your rational human mind can see that it wouldn’t make any sense – that it would be harmful, hurtful…traumatic.
So why do seemingly well intentioned people feel the need to assert that All Lives Matter when we say that Black Lives Matter? In this talk with my friend, we discovered what I will call the Noble Cause Paradox. It’s what happens when two views are “justifiably right” and seemingly opposing for the greater good – making both parties immovable. After all, what’s wrong with advocating for all lives? I doubt we’ll stone someone for saying that they want everyone to be able to live a happy and peaceful life free of oppression. However, this noble cause is used as a weapon to silence the voices that cry out, “I miss you. I wish it wasn’t this way. Your life matters. Black Lives Matter!” Your well timed “All Lives Matter” loses its nobility. That silencing – intended or not – is due cause for us to pump up the volume and scream it louder. BLACK LIVES MATTER! Wouldn’t you for your loved one? The paradox continues.
That feeling that you get – that rumbling restlessness – when you just have to correct someone for saying Black Lives Matter – when you just have to make sure they know that All Lives Matter – I’d like to think that it comes from a noble cause. I’d like to think that you are such a good person that you want to make sure All Lives Matter. But noble or not, this is a kind of “invisible” racism. You want to make sure that we remember all lives because it would be “wrong” to leave them out. White folks always tryina “do the right thing” – Intent. But what you actually end up doing is silencing the cries of a group of lives that you say matter; and Black folks are once again left out, disregarded and dismissed – impact. Your anti-racism becomes racism. Your anti-hate becomes hate. Don’t hate. Appreciate.
When you say, “All Lives Matter” as a counter to my “Black Lives Matter,” you trade your hand made superhero costume for sheep’s clothing and devour what you claim to support. You are the gentle voice and hand on the back suggesting I quit my sobbing and remember the big picture. Your white privilege allows you to focus on the big picture – the majority picture - All Lives All the time. In your mind, you represent most. You feel naturally included and represented in the All. And why wouldn’t you be? 86% of All of your Madisonians – All of the people in your intimate and personal sphere All look like you. My survival demands that I focus on my subset of All lives, because it’s clear that it’s not a priority for you All. And it has to be a priority for somebody, because All Lives Mattered when my unarmed brother was gunned down with his hands up. All Lives Mattered when my family was jailed – when my sister was beaten. All Lives Mattered when my supervisor’s racism threatened my household – when my teacher sold me at a discount. What did your “All Lives Matter” do for me then and what is it doing for me now as my people’s blood fills the streets?
I yell “Black Lives Matter” because they do. If you agree, but you feel that restless rumble of All Lives Matter bubbling to the surface, please kindly shut the hell up and do something about why Black people feel the need to shout about the value and awareness of our lives. Every 8 hours an unarmed Black person is killed by an armed official. Why do you feel the need to correct me in my distress? I hope you can see the ignorance in that.
But in case you don’t get it, I hope you can get that Alton Sterling’s Life Matters. Philando Castile’s Life Matters. Freddy Gray’s Life Matters. Aprina Paul’s Life Matters. Aiyana Jones’ Life Matters. Eric Garner’s Life Matters. Mike Brown’s Life Matters. Tony Robinson’s Life Matters. Genele Laird’s Life Matters. My Life Matters too. You gonna “All Lives Matter” that? Stop. Recognize your “invisible” racism for what it is. Be better for us All…