Ever since the "Black Lives Matter" protest campaign started last year in response to the seeming wave of black men dying at the hands of police, there's always been a common refrain among many white folks, from the most liberal leftie to the most conservative rightwinger: "All lives matter!" This has to stop, and here's why...
You're not being all-inclusive when you say this; you're being dismissive (or at least tone deaf) of the very real pain a particular portion of our population is experiencing. Here are some enumerated reasons why this response is tactless (albeit mostly unintentionally) and adds to the feeling of racism by those affected:
- As a white person, you do not need to assert that your life matters, as you are not experiencing the same institutional racism that is resulting in your friends and family members being killed. Stop trying to equate yourself as being just as much of a potential victim as they are; you're not.
- Saying "black lives matter" is not saying "white lives don't matter" or "ONLY black lives matter"; it's saying, "Hey, our lives matter, too!" There's a reason they're having to assert that their lives matter, because they're seeing a disproportionate amount of their people being beaten or killed by the police. As a white parent, I don't have to worry that if my kid gets arrested for doing something stupid, that they may not come home again, or will come home severely beaten. That's a very real fear that many black parents have, though, especially if their child is a boy/man. Understand and empathize with that, and don't think you experience the same thing as them, because you don't.
- Whether you know it or not, when you try to cover up their "black lives matter" cries with "all lives matter", you're trying to quell their voice, trying to drown out their demand for justice and their effort to expose the injustice that is happening within their community. Don't try to shut them up; the pain is real. This isn't about you, and it doesn't have to be.
- They need our help, for us to echo their concern. Like it or not, because of sheer numbers and the differing influence, the black community won't see the changes that clearly need to happen to protect them unless all us white folk demand it for them, too. We run the police departments, the councils, the legislatures, etc. We have the most votes. If we truly believe that ALL lives matter, then we have to recognize that this group isn't getting that equal protection and demand that it does.
Certainly all lives matter. However, we don't have to cry for justice for white lives in the same way we don't have to cry for equitable pay for men. The group getting the advantage isn't experiencing the specific injustice. Join the cry for "black lives matter" because you recognize that they're experiencing an injustice, and you want to see everyone treated the same by the power structures.