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In the wake of a recent rash of incidents in which police have been witnessed, photographed, and video taped attacking and even ending the lives of black Americans across the country, a political movement has sprung up. Dubbed #BlackLivesMatter, the movement seeks to call attention to the growing (but hardly new) problem of systemic racism that runs through our police department. Obviously, it’s too broad a stroke to say that all police are evil (far, far from it), but it’s flat-out foolish to deny that African Americans have a case in saying that they’re unfairly targeted by law enforcement. Shining a light on that injustice is at the core of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

In response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, some joker decided that the movement was “elitist” and proclaimed that, in fact, All Lives Matter. This notion has taken on a life of its own in the days since it was proffered. It’s been adopted by celebrities, Twitter fanatics, and everyday citizens alike. And on the surface, it seems absolutely logical. After all, black lives absolutely matter, but don’t Asian lives, Hispanic lives, and Caucasian lives matter, too? What exactly is the problem with saying #AllLivesMatter?

All Lives Matter

1. The Tenor Controversy

Just a short while ago, at the 2016 MLB All-Star Game, Canadian group The Tenors were invited to sing the Canadian national anthem. Of course, as they were performing, a member of the group sang new lyrics. Instead of “With glowing hearts we see thee rise/The True North strong and free,” Remigio Pereira sang: “We’re all brothers and sisters/All lives matter to the great.” The backlash was swift. Social media exploded, and the group issued a statement condemning Pereira’s actions and putting the entirety of the blame on his shoulders.

Calling the singer a “lone wolf,” the statement expressed remorse for his actions and added that the other members of the group were “shocked and embarrassed” that Pereira used the “coveted platform” of the All-Star Game to “serve his own political views” with the “shameful” act.


2. It’s Super Duper Racist

Let’s start with this fun bit of critique. According to critics, the #AllLivesMatter hash tag has actually been co-opted by some for racist purposes. Carla Shedd, assistant professor of Sociology at Columbia University, says the hash tag is, “erasing the vulnerability of and dehumanization of black people.” Other experts have asserted that the #AllLivesMatter cause has sprung up because some people are uncomfortable talking about racism — in fact, some still refuse to believe it exists — so, #AllLivesMatter is an easy way to dismiss the #BlackLivesMatter movement.


3. Women’s Rights vs Human Rights

Rapper and actor (but mostly actor at this point) Ice-T had some words of wisdom on the topic. When asked, he explained, “[When] I say ‘black lives matter,’ and you say ‘all lives matter,’ that’s like you saying, ‘women’s rights’ and I say, ‘human rights.’ It dilutes what you’re saying …” Of course, the SVU alum added that the movement could have broader implications, saying, “But here’s the big thing to Black Lives Matter: Black people have to understand that black lives matter also. We’re killing ourselves at a far more alarming rate than the police are killing us. So we have to address our black-on-black crime, our stuff that’s going on in the hood also, along with police brutality. That’s the big problem.”


4. The Problem With the System

When prompted on the issue of #AllLivesMatter vs #BlackLivesMatter, Lea DeLaria, the actress who kills it as Boo on Orange Is the New Black, said basic misinformation in the American society was to blame. “Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that all lives don’t matter,” the actress said, adding, “What it means is that black lives matter do as well. And we live in a society that unfortunately teaches people — and usually it is the people that are hashtagging #AllLivesMatter — that black lives are less important than theirs. And anybody that lives in America and thinks that that isn’t taught is a f—king idiot and surrounded by an information-proof shield and is probably a racist.”


5. The implicit ‘too’ of #BlackLivesMatter

A little over a year ago, someone submitted the following question to reddit’s Explain it Like I’m 5 subreddit: “Why is it so controversial when someone says ‘All Lives Matter’ instead of ‘Black Lives Matter’?” User GeekAesthete responded with a wonderful 5-paragraph response that argues that the #BlackLivesMatter movement has an implicit “too” on the end of it, as though to say, “Black lives matter, too.” In that context, the movement points to a societal notion that black lives don’t hold the same value as white lives. He explains it much better than I just did. Seriously, read it … and then come back for the next slide!


6. Don’t critique. Listen.

A popular critique of the #BlackLivesMatter movement is the notion that the Black Lives Matter movement is divisive. As it was put to one Unitarian minister, “How will this nation of ours ever join together if we are constantly looking at everyone by their race?” Of course, the minister responded with several thoughtful paragraphs, but he concluded by saying, “I very much appreciate you writing to me, and am glad that we share the goal of coming to a day when people will not be judged, consciously or unconsciously, on the basis of their race … That work begins by listening to one another, and listening especially to the voices of those who have the least power in society. If nothing else is clear from the past few weeks, it is painfully evident that a great many people do not believe that they are treated fairly. Healing begins by listening to those voices and stories.”


7. Also, Definitely Listen to Arthur Chu

Twitter star Arthur Chu has some choice thoughts on the whole controversy between #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter. I’ll yield the floor: “Do people who change #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter run thru a cancer fundraiser going “THERE ARE OTHER DISEASES TOO”” “WTF is the impulse behind changing #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter. Do you crash strangers’ funerals shouting I TOO HAVE FELT LOSS”


8. All Lives Matter Is Pedantic

Once again, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that the base sentiment of #AllLivesMatter is correct. Yes, totally, all lives absolutely matter. However, as put it, the issue with the #AllLivesMatter movement, “[isn’t] that what they’re saying isn’t true. It’s just that it’s unhelpful. It’s an attempt to erase an actual crisis under the guise of being fair. And by continuing to use “All Lives Matter” to drown out the cry of “Black Lives Matter,” the real problems the movement is trying to address are being ignored. “All Lives Matter” is useless. It is destructive. It is hurtful. We need to stop saying it.”

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