Have you noticed how people started using the expression “All Lives Matter” only after the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was coined?
It is almost as if it was ‘designed’ as an automatic response to the “Black Lives Matter” statement, which suggests that the uttering of these words makes us feel a bit uncomfortable. But why?
Some white folks may argue that the phrase is a bit racist, implying that white lives do not matter as much. That is clearly not the case.
Let us put it this way. If you attended a colon cancer conference, you wouldn’t think for a moment that they were discarding other types of cancer as irrelevant or not as important, would you?
According to a recent article by John Halstead, published on the Huffington Post, if someone turned up with a banner saying “Lung Cancer Matters” or on a T-shirt saying “All Cancer Victims Matter?” it would certainly appear that there is something else that compels people to say “All Lives Matter” in response to the “Black Lives Matter” statement.
Mr. Halstead writes that that people saying “All Lives Matter” also tend to use the expression “Blue Lives Matter”.
For those of you who find the expression “Black Lives Matter” to be offensive but have no problem with “Blue Lives Matter”, it is clear that there is something about the word “Black” that makes you feel uncomfortable. This is clearly indicative of something.
The Issue of Colorblindness
According to Mr. Halstead, the reason why the word “Black” bother us is the fact that by using it, we acknowledge the fact that we do see color and we are actually not “colorblind” as most of us would like to think.
Mr. Halstead claims that colorblindness simply doesn’t exist. Moreover, it can also be said that ignoring race is a white man’s privilege. In other words, white people are “blessed” with not having to pay attention to race because society is largely run by whites and for whites.
It is clear that the phrase “All Lives Matter” serves the purpose of shifting the focus from the systematic racism out there leveled at black people. It is only a substitute phrase for “White Lives Matter” as when white people say “all lives” they largely think “all white lives”.
Mr. Halstead says that we need to start saying “Black Lives Matter” much more than we do because it is clear that our society doesn’t think so. It is a well established fact that more than two-thirds of all people shot by law enforcement agencies in America are black, and that the country’s judiciary system sentences black people more severely than whites who committed the exact same crime.
And by throwing around phrases like “All Lives Matter” and failing to respond appropriately to unjustified killings of black people we certainly act as if we truly believe that black lives do not matter as much.
And yet we keep saying “All Lives Matter”, not wanting to get out of our comfort zone. “Black Lives Matter” makes us feel uncomfortable, Mr. Halstead claims, because it reminds us that racial segregation is very much alive in America.
While open racism is no longer culturally acceptable for most white folks, modern-day racism has “evolved” and has now taken a more subtle, covert form instead.
A modern-day racist is not a member of the infamous KKK and does not use the N-word, but he unwittingly supports the “institutionalized racism” nevertheless. Failing to see and to respond to racism can be considered as a form of passive participation, as can the use of the statement “All lives matter”.
Embracing the Discomfort
Recognizing the problem is part of the solution, according to Mr. Halstead, and white people should drop the notion that we are colorblind.
How many of us are prepared to admit to giving ourselves a pat on the back for treating a black man the same as we would treat a white man in any given situation? It only goes to show that we are indeed not colorblind.
Racism comes in all kinds of subtle ways, and if you fancy yourself as a non-racist, try and spend some time to interact with black people.
Even if you feel comfortable in the company of a black man or a woman, chances are you will feel pretty uncomfortable in a room full of black people. You would probably start feeling unwelcome. Well, that’s how black people feel most of the time.
Feeling guilty about white privilege will not do much good. Using that privilege against racial abuse and talking to white people about institutional racism will.
According to Mr. Halstead, we must overcome the issue of saying the world “Black” and challenge our unconscious bias by start saying “Black Lives Matter”.
Side With the Second Civil Rights Movement
Mr. Halstead writes that as much as we (white people) like to think that we would have chosen Martin Luther King Junior’s side during the Civil Rights era, the fact remains that the vast majority of white people were opposed to the Civil Rights movement when it was happening.
There is no denying the facts. We are living the second Civil Rights Movement and it seems to have a similar, albeit more subtle effect on white people.
Decades from now, we will reflect on the Second Civil Rights Movement and see if we sided with the right or the wrong side of history. Choosing the former means embracing discomfort, it means saying “Black Lives Matter ”.