Whose lives matter?

I may be a bit late in posting this, but I’ve been really frustrated by the tension between the “Black Lives Matter” groups and the “All Lives Matter” groups.

I’ll admit, when the Michael Brown shooting happened and the BLM movement first gained momentum, I was as furious about the historic and systematic oppression as anyone in the movement. As well, I found people’s response of “All Lives Matter” to be extremely insensitive and undermined the BLM movement. After all, the BLM movement was meant to raise awareness of systematic oppression of minority groups. It was a recognition that historically speaking, black lives haven’t been considered as important white lives. To the BLM movement, “All Lives Matter” only served to draw attention away from the BLM movement. Likely, many white people felt threatened by the BLM movement and did say “All Lives Matter” as a way to remove attention from something that makes them uncomfortable with their privilege. I don’t entirely know. At the time, I was angry every time I saw #alllivesmatter.

Since then, though, I’ve done some rethinking of this issue. The reality of this country is that we’re ALL oppressed. Minority groups are obviously the most oppressed of us, but the fact remains that we are all victims of an oppressive government and corporations that could care less about us. We all live within a society in which we are forced to live in a very particular way lest we suffer imprisonment, social abandonment, or poverty. It is not just black people, women, muslims, or the elderly that suffer in our society. It’s each and every one of us. Each of us is constrained to behave within a particular societal role that we cannot waver from lest we be punished. This is not okay.

The question, then, is what do we do about it? The answer is surprisingly simple. We must unite! We need to come together towards a common goal and a common vision. All this conflict and butting heads among ourselves only furthers our isolation and oppression. I was drawn to this image:

I asked myself, if we need to bring people together, what do we do? What can we all agree upon? Under what banner can we unite? The answer was surprising: All Lives Matter. Let’s forget our preconceptions of the phrase for a moment and consider what it really means.

All Lives Matter. All lives are equally valuable. There is no one life that has more value than another. It doesn’t matter your life circumstances, your beliefs, the color of your skin, what mistakes you’ve made, what chances you’ve missed, the choices you’ve made; your life matters. I don’t know about you guys, but that sounds like the breath of unity, inspiration, and empowerment that this world desperately needs.

Now I want to address the BLM movement. Many people have felt, as I once did, that “All Lives Matter” undermines the movement. I disagree. Black people have been historically oppressed more than almost any other group in this country. Black people still need to deal with police discrimination, fearful glances on the street, and all manner of other subtle forms of oppression that I likely know nothing about. These are all serious issues that need addressing. If they’re going to be addressed, there needs to be solidarity not only within black communities, but within all communities. That means other groups of people need to be invited into the conversation. That means that other groups of people need to be affirmed and empowered as well as black people. Many non-black people feel that “Black Lives Matter” ignores the inherent value and worth of their own lives. Most people want equality, but equality means everyone is empowered

Does this mean that “Black Lives Matter” is a terrible rallying cry that needs suppression. Absolutely not. As I understand it, “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” aren’t really at odds. There’s no reason they cannot coexist. All lives matter means black lives matter too. Black lives matter doesn’t mean only black lives matter, others can too. “Black Lives Matter” is about systematic and historic oppression of black people and the need for immediate action. Can anyone really say that’s not the case? “All Lives Matter” is about the fact that no life is more or less valuable than another. Who could deny that? In fact, both rallying cries ought to support one another. One is just a broader swath of the brush than another.

What I call for is the unity of the BLM movement and the ALM group. I also call for the ALM group to become a movement. I envision a world in which we all unite under that banner of “All Lives Matter” within that group we have solidarity. Then those who feel particularly drawn to the BLM movement can do that within the support of a group that affirms us all. Likewise people within that will be free to pursue the causes of LGBT rights, women’s rights, Muslim rights, animal rights, or any other social cause a person feels drawn to. We need to support one another if we wish to see any real change. Perhaps the controversial “All Lives Matter” can really become the rallying cry it’s meant to be.

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