Civil Rights

But don’t all lives matter?

Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations grew across the country in response to killings of Black people by police – often when the victims are unarmed or moving away from officers. But the name of the movement causes some people to ask: shouldn’t all lives matter?

It’s important to realize that the name “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t mean that only Black lives matter. The movement exists to ensure that Black lives hold the same value as those of other races. It works to eliminate racial bias from policing and other institutions that affect the lives of Black people.

That’s a tough task, especially since racial bias has been weaved throughout our society for centuries. From the Black Lives Matter movement’s website:

For more than 500 years Black people have been fighting for our freedom. We have fought back against slavery, Black codes, Jim Crow laws, policing, incarceration, some of the highest unemployment rates, consistent homelessness, dying while giving birth, being murdered for being trans or non-binary. We have been the consistent moral compass in a country that has thrived on harming the most vulnerable of its population.

Everyone agrees that all lives do matter. The Black Lives Matter movement works to end the entrenched bias against Black people.

It’s really important to realize that saying “all lives matter” in response to Black Lives Matter can be disrespectful and confrontational. Put another way:

I would never go to a breast cancer rally and yell out “colon cancer matters.” And that’s what people are doing here.

DeRay Mckesson

Responding to BLM with “all lives matter” trivializes the fact that Black people face extra difficulties with policing.

An “all lives matter” comic by Kris Straub

As members of the Black Lives Matter movement like to say, all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.