The Problem with “All Lives Matter”

Slogan Just Misses the Point

By Jéan-Claude Quintyne

“All Lives Matter” should not exist, at least, when it refers explicitly to Black Lives Matter. Does that bother you? Well, it shouldn’t.

The hashtag was created out of heavy misunderstanding of the significance of “Black Lives Matter.” And it’s disturbing how badly “All Lives Matter” misses the obvious meaning behind it—I’ll get to that later.

I will admit I was quite taken aback when “All Lives Matter” surfaced, because I couldn’t believe there were people who actually thought that a group functioned under the mindset that their race, creed, and what-have-you took precedence over everyone else’s.


And in spite of the intensity of the racial tension the nation faces, with disheartening video of unarmed black men and women murdered in cold blood, murdered “accidentally,” and slaughtered while in bible study, “All Lives Matter” still doesn’t get the message.

Yes, it is absolutely true that all lives matter. It’s a general rule that most people inherently abide by.

But here are two (of many) problems with “All Lives Matter.”

The first lies in why the slogan couldn’t rise in response to the many issues all of us face, such as quality of life—take the Factory Farm industry, for instance.

Factory Farms are significant contributors to the release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which intensifies Global Warming—a cause of severe weather, extinction, severe drought, and heat-related illness and disease—how many people and wildlife die as a result of these again?

The farms transformed the homely, quality-first production of food into a warped, assembly line fragment of its former self. Animals in the farms live horrible, short lives and, among other things, are treated to a diet of hormones, medicine, and the parts of other tortured animals which we, in turn, consume.

We get all kinds of sick and watch our health weaken and don’t know why. The powers-that-be at factory farms know why, but continue to mass-produce this bad food. All lives don’t matter to them.

Similar systems are found in Big Tobacco and Big Oil, who have ruined more lives than the dollars in their pockets. Why hasn’t “All Lives Matter” targeted them?

The second and major problem with the slogan is the fact that the qualifier is tone deaf.

What “Black Lives Matter” communicates is the grim reality of racial vulnerability that blacks face on a daily basis, which is what “All Lives Matter” completely misses.

And one point this slogan makes is that black lives shouldn’t be disposed of so easily, that it’s absolutely ridiculous that the notion that those whose lives are perceived as threats to the ones that accent and personify white privilege can be neutralized in the name of that life, exists.

In a country where black people are still perceived threats while leaving a convenience store unarmed, shot while standing in a park before being asked any questions, or in a chokehold repeatedly stating that he cannot breathe, the value of their lives need to be recognized.

This recognition needs to be prevalent in a system where all lives are supposed to matter. If all the lives that have not mattered and have been fighting to matter finally achieve that recognition, if they are seen, if their existence and significance is acknowledged, then “All Lives Matter” wouldn’t be as unnecessary as it is.

To further clarify this, “All Lives Matter” is problematic because it aims to blindly incorporate those lives that haven’t mattered with those that do. But because there are lives that haven’t mattered, it is necessary to formulate a movement to bring those lives to the forefront.

There’s this clash that’s occurred as a result of “All Lives Matter’s” blindness, which stems from the fact that it’s redundant—the slogan forces itself to be a stage in a process that’s going to take who-knows-how-long.

And the blindness serves as an example of a rudimentary, “post-racial” mindset of whiteness. Is the slogan not borne out of an image of glamorized white bodies, where the many high-pitched, responses to “Black Lives Matter” arrived in some form of “What are they protesting now?” or the disproportioned “All Lives Matter” march that happened on August 30?

Unfortunately, the climate is such that responses to important movements like “Black Lives Matter” receive harsh criticisms that are structured in whiteness as the norm: It arrives with definitions of style, preference, and convenience.

And it becomes exhausting to talk about for those who are inconvenienced because it’s too difficult to properly acknowledge and take action against these terrible incidents.

There shouldn’t be resistance to “Black Lives Matter.”

Anti-black racism and police brutality is real, and has been for a long time. Now, there’s way more evidence than there ever was, with videos spreading all over the globe, further strengthening the motivation and method to act. And in spite of that, blacks are still slain.

Who out there who’s tired of this wouldn’t chant “Black Lives Matter.”

“Intersectional politics (and practice) is not just theoretical—it is the lifeline upon which we depend for our collective liberation,” Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said in an article on thsppl.com.

Furthermore, removing “Black” from the slogan is to rip black voices from the conversation—a brutal mistake that erases the origins and contributions blacks made to start and get it moving, not to mention that its removal would be a repeat of another horrible part of history: How many people know that the Statue of Liberty was designed by a black woman or, more recently, despite what people think about Kendall Jenner or model Cara Delevingne’s latest “epic” hairstyles, black people have worn cornrows since the dawn of time.

And if, by chance, any “All Lives Matter” supporters are reading this, and they still don’t get why their slogan is odd, they’ll get the point if I apply their response to Black Lives Matter to the other messages that accompany it:

“All Hands Up. Don’t Shoot.” “We All Can’t Breathe.”



Categories: Opinion

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