Sunday, September 6, 2015

"All Lives Matter": why you are not a special snowflake and that response is still inappropriate

Hey guys. Can we talk?

I am not a person of color. Unless “pinkish” is a color. I don’t think it is. Anyway. I recognize that I have no personal connection to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, being a white girl of inordinate privilege. However, I am an ally. I know that there are better researched, more eloquent, more personal, more experienced articles and blogs out there about this subject, but I thought I’d come from my unique point of view: the layman’s explanation of why “All Lives Matter” is not an okay response to “Black Lives Matter.”

Here’s the thing. When you hear “Black Lives Matter” and earnestly respond, “Yes, but all lives matter,” we (the public at large) know you mean it exactly the way you mean it: sincerely, fervently, and equally. However, what you don’t understand is, when someone is saying “black lives matter,” they are not talking to you. They’re not trying to convince you.

When you say, “All lives matter!” there is something in your head that says, “I understand that a politician saying this would be inappropriate. But I mean it.” But, contrary to what your mom says, you’re not a special snowflake. When anyone says that, they mean it sincerely. They’re not misrepresenting their personal feelings. But their feelings—your feelings—don’t matter. Your insistence that all lives matter makes it crystal clear that you haven’t had to experience a Black friend or acquaintance dying at the hands of a correctional or law enforcement officer.

The response “all lives matter” to “Black Lives Matter” is exactly analogous to the “Not all men…” / #YesAllWomen twitter phenomenon of last year. Yes All Women was not asserting that all men are rapists. As women, we are completely aware that not all men are rapists: we have boyfriends, brothers, fathers, sons, and friends who show us that every damn day. But that doesn’t negate the fact that there are a large enough number of rapists in the world to make all women nervous about being alone, in public, at night.

And here’s a point of interest: I am not nervous. I have never experienced sexual harassment or assault on the scale that apparently a majority of women do on a daily basis. I don’t know, maybe where I live is exceptional, but I count myself lucky. Still, my experience doesn’t matter. My good fortune is the exception, not the rule. So, who is going on twitter and making sure that everyone knows that, ’well actually, not all women…’ going to help?

Uh… men. That’s who. And in the specific example of sexual harassment, assault, and rape, men don’t need help. Even men who aren’t part of the problem don’t need help. They are not in danger. They are not at risk. They are not losing anything as a result of this movement.

Let me put it a different way. You are part of a marginalized group. I am not asking you to imagine a hypothetical situation in which you are part of a marginalized group, I am stating the true fact that you are part of a marginalized group. You belong to a demographic that is either currently having its rights eroded or have in the past had its rights eroded, and the fact that they are protected now was the result of a no-kidding war. You are a woman. A non-straight person. A non-cisgendered person. A person of color. You are childless/childblest. You are a nursing mother. You are unemployed. You are homeless. You are overworked. You are underpaid. You have no health insurance. You are a veteran. You are Christian. You are Muslim. You are atheist. You are neuro-atypical. You are an ex-convict. You are disabled. You belong to a movement by right of who you are. Imagine, you are at a get-together of people like you. The police come in and start shooting. One of them says, “No one cares. You’re just a bunch of <insert demographic here.>” You say, “My life matters!” He snaps back, “All lives matter.” You go on Facebook and say, “The cops shot us! Our lives matter!” and your friends, family members, acquaintances, coworkers, and former college roommate’s boyfriend scream at you, “All lives matter!”

In short, if this is not your movement, don’t stand in the way just because it doesn’t apply to you. Saying “All Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter,” you’re standing up for the people who don’t want things to change. You’re saying, “We don’t need to address this. Carry on.”

When you assert that all lives matter, as a direct response to “Black Lives Matter,” you are saying, “I’m not racist. I believe you matter! I also believe that everyone else matters too.” But. Listen closely, allies. With the ears attached to your heart. If you believe that Black lives matter. Equally. As much as everyone else’s lives matter.

Please. Keep. Your. Mouth. Shut. And. Get. Out. Of. The. Way.

Because the people who have the power to take Black lives don’t agree with you. Because law enforcement officers, correctional officers, judges, legislators, politicians, and newspeople have systemically oppressed and ignored Black lives since Black people arrived on the shores of this continent. When the BlackLivesMatter movement is talking, it’s those guys that they’re talking to. So you shouting “All lives matter!” is, quite literally, interrupting a conversation you’re not a part of.

You are free to feel impatient and frustrated that this “has to be a thing.” You are free to believe that All Lives Matter is a relevant sentiment. But if it’s a belief you sincerely hold…

Keep it to yourself.

If you wish to initiate a conversation, or hell, an argument, with me about this, feel free to DM me on Twitter or Facebook.

Any long, ranty, hysterical, or hateful comments will be immediately deleted. I welcome reasoned, respectful disagreement.

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