Why Saying #AllLivesMatter Misses The Point

‘All Lives Matter’ is a phrase that enrages many of us who support the Black Lives Matter movement. While we know that many who use it mean well and their intentions are to say that everyone should be equal, it is frustrating to see how it marginalises the struggles of People of Colour once again. To try to explain why ‘All Lives Matter’ is problematic, this article will give an easy-to-understand breakdown of why that phrase does more harm than good.

Let us start with a simple example. You are at the doctor’s office, because your arm is broken. After examining you, the doctor says that, “All your bones matter, not just your arm.” How will you feel? A little exasperated? And rightly so. Of course, all your bones are important, but you need the doctor to pay attention to the ones in your arm right now – because those are the ones most in pain right now. If the doctor gives attention to your arm, it does not mean that your other bones do not matter or that they are worth any less. But, when you are in pain because of your broken arm, and the doctor says that all your bones matter, he is taking away from the pain your arm is feeling right now. He is diminishing and belittling the very real and serious pain you are feeling in your arm. 

That is how it feels when you say ‘All Lives Matter’ in response to #BlackLivesMatter. Of course, everyone’s life is supposed to matter – regardless of the colour of your skin. And on the surface, saying ‘All Lives Matter’ may be well-intentioned, because it seems like a ‘we are all in this together’ approach that states the ideal of everyone being truly equal. But, while this sounds great when you type into a comment box on Facebook, that is not our reality. By saying that ‘All Lives Matter’, you are diminishing the focus on the violence, discrimination, and systemic racism that POC experience every day - and that is simply not okay. We said #BlackLivesMatter, we never said that only Black lives matter. Yes, of course all lives matter, but not all lives are in danger, right now, just because of the colour of their skin. 

The reason we needed the Black Lives Matter movement is exactly because the world acts like all lives do not matter. POC are more routinely killed by police officers than their white counterparts. Let us take the USA for instance: in 2020, 172 white people and 88 Black people have been killed by the police. That does not look like an issue of race, correct? Let us take a closer look at the rate of these killings. For every 1 million white people in the USA, 12 will be killed by the police. But for every 1 million Black people in the USA, 30 people will be killed by the police. Can you see why this is an issue of race? Black people are disproportionately killed more than other ethnicities, simply because of the colour of their skin.

#BlackLivesMatter is a movement that flared up because of police brutality and racial killings, but it encompasses so much more than just that. It is a movement that seeks to address the legacy of racism and ill-treatment of POC by the criminal justice system and other political and social institutions. That is what the movement is fighting. BLM is not a denial that your life has been hard as a white person – it is simply saying that the colour of your skin is not one of the things that makes your life even harder. Do you worry when you enter a police station to get something certified? Do you fear for your life when a traffic cop pulls you over? 

Saying #AllLivesMatter in the middle of a fight against the racial injustices and inequalities faced by POC, is the same as saying that, ‘All Diseases Matter’ in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, of course all diseases matter and they are all challenging in their own aspects, but we are fighting the big bad mean one that is doing the most damage right now. 

We need to work together to dismantle our racial, biased way of thinking that is so deeply rooted in our society. It is hard work; and yes, it is uncomfortable. You will have to call out racism and bias from your friends, your family, and even from people you admire. But, POC are losing their lives every day; they are assaulted, brutalised, and criminalised for no reason other than the colour of the skin they dare live in. We do not have the luxury of being comfortable or staying silent anymore - staying silent only benefits the oppressors. We need your voice to speak for those who cannot; we need you to fight with us even when there is everything to lose. We cannot sacrifice the lives and human rights of POC, because we are scared or because it feels like an inconvenience to speak out.

I know it is hard to understand the struggle and discrimination faced by POC. It is something that we, as white folks, simply do not experience every day. The colour of our skin is the farthest thing from our minds when we go to the shops, go for a jog, or get pulled over on the road. We can barely fathom the idea of being killed, just because of the colour of our skin. But, I implore you to ask questions, do research, and engage with POC to better understand their lived realities – to enable us to become better allies.

#BlackLivesMatter #NoJusticeNoPeace #RacialEquality