I suppose the social media hashtag #AllLivesMatter is well-intentioned. Of course, everyone’s life matters. But as an offering in response to the #BlackLivesMatter campaign and philosophy, which is how people seem to be using it, the hashtag is insensitive, a gross misunderstanding (or ignorance) of history and its legacy, and entirely absurd.
#BlackLivesMatter reminds us that American heritage reflects 400 years of institutionalized enslavement, oppression, and murder directed specifically toward – wait for it – black folks. And here’s the real sticker: for the most part, white America has stood silently by and let it happen…for four centuries.
Have “all” people been singled out for enslavement? Have “all” people had their children stolen and sold? Have “all” people had to resign themselves to arbitrary beatings and rape? Have “all” people faced a lynching for simply exercising their Constitutional rights? Have “all” people faced the humiliation of legal public segregation? Have “all” people been denied a seat at a lunch counter or on a bus or in a theater? Have “all” people faced the reality of being singled out by law enforcement when they leave their homes? Have “all” people been criminalized for their manner of dress? Have “all” people had to instruct their children that they will be treated as potential threats and thus take especial care not to be killed? No.
Many white Americans understand the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow era racism as things of the past – terrible yes, but over. And these folks suggest that we all move along; that if everyone obeys the law, there will be no trouble. And we will all live in peace – all of us. But anyone who has been paying attention knows that this is not the case. Anyone who reads the news and still believes things are fine is confused. Using #BlackLivesMatter does not mean that other lives do not matter – it is an acknowledgement of a history of brutality, its legacy, and its modern manifestations.
#BlackLivesMatter reminds us that the unseemly American tradition of enslavement, oppression, and murder is still with us. And until “all” Americans can admit this, little will change.
Just in case you need a reminder…
Peace be with you,