All Lives Matter?

all-lives-matter

“All Lives Matter” is a reaction to “Black Lives Matter” which is a reaction to police systematically murdering black people in the US and the judicial system largely turning a blind eye.

It’s one of those things that sounds right but means wrong, you know? Like when the government names a bill “The Freedom Protection Act” or something, you can assume it’s pretty much the opposite of that.

When you say that, it sounds like you mean that you care equally about all lives; how can anyone argue about that? But what you actually mean is you want to ignore the voices raised in protest. You want to silence them by co-opting their expression and turning it into a muzzle.

The problem is it’s really effective. And it’s seductive. Oh, so you care about black lives? Well, I (invariably a white person) care about ALL LIVES[1].

Thing is, you can’t look at language in a vacuum. Context matters. And context like white people at a rally beating a black man while chanting “All Lives Matter” matters. The action lays the truth bare.

I’ve talked about dogwhistles before, and “All Lives Matter” is rapidly becoming one for racists and people invested in the status quo.

It doesn’t mean anything about which lives matter at all. It doesn’t mean “yes, and…”.

It means “shut up”.

[1] – The society we live in gives lie to this: Non-male, non-white people are systematically oppressed. I mean, they’re not literally whipped and enslaved anymore but all kinds of avenues of advancement are denied them, consciously or not. And just because you think you’re not personally complicit in this doesn’t mean you’re not. Especially if you’re a Christian, this just isn’t tenable. God is a God who desires justice, who cares about widows and orphans. Christ himself, our primary means of identifying with God, is a victim. Identity with Jesus means identity with the oppressed and victimized, not denial about who the oppressed and victimized are.