To Everyone Who Says ‘All Lives Matter’

To everyone who says “All Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter” or the Black Lives Matter movement in general, why do you say that?

Why do you think the words “Black Lives Matter” exclude other lives? How does saying “Black Lives Matter” say or even imply other lives don’t? If I say, “That house is on fire so we need to take it out,” does that mean I don’t care about other houses? Or does it simply mean that I am noticing a disparity and want to fix it? If your house was on fire and you called the fire department to take it out, how would you feel if your neighbor with their perfectly safe house yells to you, “All Houses Matter?” Does that make sense to you? To protest for something that is not on fire?

Why do you think saying “All Lives Matter” holds the same real-world weight as “Black Lives Matter?” We know your lives matter, especially if you’re white, but that’s because everyone is treating you like your life does matter. Does someone question your right to exist because of your skin tone? Do people see you as a threat because of your skin tone? Would the police shoot a white guy who was accused of using a counterfeit dollar bill at a store? Why wouldn’t the police not react violently, but rather calmly, to the situation just as they did when (mostly) white people protested lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic?

Lastly, if you say “All Lives Matter” if you truly believe in your heart that all lives matter, then why do you have a problem with us saying “Black Lives Matter? Does saying “You matter” to an oppressed group equate to “You and only you matter?” If so, that’s a big assumption to make based on what was not said nor even implied. Saying “Black Lives Matter” means that we have to shout to the rooftops about our lives mattering because history has shown that many people clearly don’t give a damn about our lives. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery aren’t the only names we’ve heard before. We’ve heard Trayvon Martin’s name, and before him we heard Rodney King, and before and after those names we’ve heard too many others who had suffered the same fate. In the eyes of the law, black lives don’t matter.

But maybe you know this already. Maybe you already know black people are treated differently than white people but simply refuse to see it. Or maybe, somewhere in your mind, you really don’t believe all lives matter, because you’re offended every time someone says, “Black Lives Matter.” Maybe you simply use the “All Lives Matter” phrase as a diversion from the real issue, just like how you ask why there’s no “White History Month”. Maybe you’re so caught in in your own privilege that you feel threatened when the attention is not on you.

Maybe you deflect blame onto the victims of racism. Maybe you make us feel bad for speaking up when we’re simply asking not to be murdered. Maybe you make us feel bad for pointing out racism in society and how in particular anti-blackness is its own disease and pandemic that the world hasn’t found a cure for, because, like our president in office treated coronavirus, you don’t think that this disease exists and plagues our society.

When we shout, “Institutional racism” in the police force, you shout back, “A few bad apples,” as if the entire tree itself wasn’t rotten to begin with. When we say “That’s racist,” you pull out “This isn’t about race,” or “I don’t see color,” or “I don’t want to get political.” And when we just say “Black Lives Matter,” you hashtag “Blue Lives Matter,” you flood Twitter with “White Lives Matter” and “White Out Wednesday.” And finally, when that’s not enough, you throw “All Lives Matter” in our faces every. Single. Time.

So the next time you want to say “All Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter,” don’t. Don’t post it on your story, don’t retweet it, and don’t you tell your one black “friend” those words.

The next time you want to say, “All Lives Matter,” think about why you’re saying that. And then be thankful that you don’t have to tell someone “White Lives Matter,” because, in the eyes of society, they already do. Ours don’t.

About the author

Fairley Lloyd

Writer, editor, and bi-con