Our current conceptualizations of race, although an impotent biological concept, still carries much psychological weight in a racist society. I do not have to put forth reams of statistics to confirm my lived experience as an African American man living in the United States of America. The experience of being marginalized, questioned, despised, and sometimes hated, is clearly evident by how people react to my skin color. My race continues to be a central element that people often react to—implicitly and explicitly. I do not live in a world where I do not have to address, on some level and in some way, some ill fated, poorly conceptualized stereotype associated with my phenotype.
The use of the slogan, #All Lives Matter, from my view, seeks to couple the lived experience of the oppressor with the lived experience of the oppressed. From this perspective then its use, #All Lives Matter, although it may be offered as a healing antidote, may have the unintended effect of negating the oppressed person’s experience. I am made to feel guilty then, perhaps even tilted toward a bucket of social shame when asserting #Black Lives Matter to address the hatred of people with my skin color.
Why and how is it that any statement of self love I direct toward myself (and other black folk) by sharing “#Black Lives Matter, can then be viewed as unhealthy, non-inclusive, or viewed as a contrite provocation for violence?
Of course, we are all humans but the irony and sadness is that some of us are afforded human rights while others have to beg for it in the streets. Our systems have failed us when Black and brown people can be killed so promptly, and our systems choose not to investigate the circumstances relating to these deaths any further. I will not pledge allegiance to these systems and believe that it would be unamerican to do so. Using slogans and peaceful protests in order for the barnacled vestiges of institutionalized racism to be removed from our social systems is a good thing that might improve many lives.
The tone and veracity of assertions of #All Lives Matter may express a rampant belief in egalitarianism, altruistic pleas that appear to coerce me into an unwanted and diffuse social position. These responses seem to be designed for Black folk to recant our assertion that #Black Lives Matter. I view some of these assertions #All Lives Matter as an oppressive device whose aim is to silence the veracity of the #Black Lives Matter spiritual intent.
That somehow we are made to “eat-the-pie-of-racism-does-not-exist”, we as people of color should blindly trust systems that were often built with unequal social intent is dead wrong. If we believe that our current systems even suggest a biased, unequal, racist system, then we must dismantle them. If All lives truly mattered, then if we follow its slippery logic, the current mass incarceration of people of color in our prison systems can then be justified, warranted, and claimed as evidence that our system of justice is working.
#Black Lives Matter and this statement, while we should not have to say it but apparently still do, grew out of a longstanding historical context. Please think more deeply with reflection and compassion if you choose to respond to #Black Lives Matter by saying #All Lives Matter.