Is All Lives Matter Wrong to Say?

I saw a meme on Social Media:

“Imagine your child died and you are giving a eulogy explaining what your own child meant to you and how special your child was, and then someone grabs the mic and says, ‘Actually all children are special…’. That’s what all lives matter sounds like. Embarrassing.”

Let’s break this comparison down and see exactly what’s going on here, because I have a feeling it will highlight some interesting points about how people listen and don’t listen to each other, and how people who are caught up in emotions, putting logic behind them, use emotional intimidation to bully people who are trying to keep it logical, into submission. 

To begin, what was the context in which someone first said BLM, Black Lives Matter, and what were they really saying? And then, what was the context in which someone else responded with ALM, All Lives Matter, and what exactly were they saying in response to the BLM guy? 

BLM was a statement made in response to a spike in reported killings of black men in predominantly white America, by predominantly white police officers. It was a call to action for unity and protest, and the claim being made was systemic racism–the contention that black people in America are targeted for abuse and attack (notably by the police, but also in other ways) because of their race. So BLM was a poetic, hashtaggable way of saying:

  • America is racist. 
  • The police are abusing, even killing black people because of their race.
  • We need to rise up, protest, and fight for change, because Black Lives Matter.

To which some people responded, ALM, All Lives Matter. So, understanding what the BLM person had just said, let us understand what ALM meant, since it was a response to BLM. The idea behind ALM was, in fact, meant to be conciliatory. But at the same time, it was suggesting that maybe this thing of police killings of black people might not actually be about race. 

Because, you see, although the media (news, TV, film) in America, is dominated by an ideology, which promotes the idea of systemic racism as a real thing, not everyone in America believes as they do. A lot of Americans believe that the police killings are a matter of badly trained police officers, who are abusing American citizens. Race, in the opinions of these people, is not a motivating factor. 

You see, in America, there is a problem of police corruption and abuse, of which black people are more likely to become victims. But that does not necessarily mean that they are being victimized specifically because of their race. When we correctly appreciate the true nature of what is going on here, we realize that this is not a race issue at all. And that is what ALM means. ALM is a poetic, hashtaggable way of saying:

  • These police killings are truly tragic, unjust, and wrong in every way.
  • No-one should be abused by police. We should ALL be free to live in this country in peace and security, no matter what our race.
  • But please don’t make this about racism. Let’s all be together and stay together in this, and not allow our righteous unity to be subverted by divisive contentions of racism, which cannot be substantiated.

Now, just as people said ALM means what it does not mean, I know (sadly, from experience) that there will be those who say that I said here in this article things that I did not say. So let me be clear. There IS a problem of black men being abused and killed by the police. And YES, they are targeted in greater proportions than white men. And that IS wrong, OF COURSE. But what I am saying is that this is not necessarily evidence of racism. 

So, how and why is it that black men are being disproportionately affected, if not racism? That is the question we need to ask. Because we need to understand the true nature of the problem, in order to fix what’s wrong. What we find when we examine the problem in an objective, neutral manner is that there are a few things happening, which ALL PEOPLE should realize we need to fight, in a unified way: 

  • The first problem is badly trained police officers. Angry people, with guns and badges, patrolling the streets, looking for opportunities to act out their aggression.
  • Secondly, there is the fact that these corrupt officers know that the court system is unfair. They know that someone who has the money to pay for a good lawyer, and who knows the system, is protected by the courts, but the poor and powerless can be abused, largely, with impunity, because they can’t afford proper representation.
  • And finally, that black people in America are disproportionately poor and powerless. This is why angry, aggressive, corrupt officers out there looking for victims disproportionately find black people. 

The important point to understand here is that there are whole communities of predominantly black people in America, who are just as safe and secure from this type of police abuse as any wealthy, protected white person. And conversely, there are communities of white people whom American society considers to be “trash”, and whom those angry police brutalize with just as much vigor and impunity as they do their black victims. 

I am saying these things to say that this is a time when ALL PEOPLE need to unite and work together to campaign for real, practical solutions to the challenges we are facing. We need to support initiatives that help educate and empower vulnerable parts of the population (including black and all others). This way, we hold police officers to account, who may otherwise be tempted to misbehave, because they’ll know that they are dealing with people who know the system. And we need to push for justice system reform, to include how police officers are trained and recruited, and mechanisms for ensuring that the courts treat citizens equally regardless of how much money someone has, or how well they know the system. 

Just something to think about, please, for those who are offended when people say ALM. Your child didn’t die and then someone interrupted your eulogy. That did not happen, okay? And just because you are more emotional about what’s happening doesn’t give you the right to bully the ALM guys and try to make them sound like hooligans, when they’re making a totally legitimate point, expressing their views, and trying to find unity with you. Calm down.

I also want to mention, just by the way, I’m not against the hashtag Black Lives Matter. It’s a powerful slogan, effective, easy to chant. But I dislike the racist connotations that seem to be saying that black people need to unite and take action against a white system. That’s dangerous, destructive, and is a mischaracterization of what is happening here. So, I’m NOT saying that we should abolish BLM. I’m just saying, if you say BLM and then feel your message is being contradicted when someone responds ALM, you might be the one with the problem. Because they’re not saying anything wrong. If you feel offended by that, it probably means you were harboring some negative, angry, racist feelings, and there’s no place for that. 

Don’t get so emotional that you get carried away and lose track of logic. When someone says something that isn’t exactly what you’re saying, and you are tempted to react emotionally, stop and think. Now is a time when we need to be calm and collected. Strategic, unified, targeted action is what we need, not emotionalism. So when you hear different points of view than yours, listen, investigate, don’t assume. You might find there are more people on your side than you ever knew. But if you allow anger and bitterness to cloud your thinking, and cause you to lash out, you will become the very thing you hate. 

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