To all my white, Christian friends, I want to tell you a story. I once worked for a company that considered itself a Christian business. I, as I am most places, was a bit different from the norm. If you had visited my office, you would have found the lights out in a room lit by a lava lamp and salt rock. I had all my eighties memorabilia adorning the bookshelves in all its rightful glory and one of the best Marvel office collections around.
My staff loved to hang out in my office. Other managers told stories of my office around the company. Once, an Orkin guy came to spray the building. When he got to my office, he stopped, called his brother, and asked if he could take pictures of my original Nintendo I had set up in the office. I’m talking about the original, deluxe set up with the Robot gyroscope, gun, and all.
Another thing my staff loved was the music. I had Pandora on the entire time I was at work. More often than not, my computer played the classic hits from my 70s channel or my 80s channel.
Once a month, my boss would show up to do a visit and rate the business metrics. On one particular occasion, he sat down in my office, and apparently notice my Pandora station did not play any commercials. He looked up from his iPad and said, “You have a paid subscription to Pandora?” “Yes,” I replied. He then made a statement that sadly did not shock me based on my years of history with him. He stated, “You know they support Black Lives Matter.” I looked at him and asked, “OK?” He went on, “I didn’t know that. When I found out, I canceled my Pandora subscription. I try to remember to tell everyone I know that has a subscription that I canceled mine because they support it. I thought you’d like to know so you can cancel yours as well.”
I share this story to illustrate the dichotomy between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. Through the events following the death of George Floyd, I have seen a proliferation of rebuttals to Black Lives Matter by my fellow white people with All Lives Matter. This morning, I saw a post from a pastor I respect pushing the All Lives Matter mantra.
I’m exhausted. I wish my fellow white Americans could get this. Saying, “All Lives Matter,” as a response to Black Lives Matter does not make you better than others or some great humanitarian. It’s also nonsensical.
Black Lives Matter is also not antithetical to All Lives Matter. Can we agree that black lives are part of all lives? Let me say, if we can’t get that far in agreement, we have more significant issues than this post is going to discuss. But for the sake of this conversation at the least, let’s conclude that black lives are part of all lives. If someone says, “Black Lives Matter,” and you believe that all lives matter, there should not be an argument here as black lives are part of all lives. You can agree that black lives matter without saying all lives matter.
The problem is, All Lives Matter comes off as a dog whistle. Some of the people I see post All Lives Matter also post things like “Blues Lives Matter.” There are two problems with this. If you tell someone All Lives Matter in response to Black Lives Matter, you are asking them to be inclusive – they should include all people in their fight – they should use “All” instead of “Black.” But then, you turn around and post something like Blue Lives Matter showing that you do believe a label can differentiate a cause. Do Blue Lives Matter? Of course. Are blue lives not part of all lives? Of course. However, when you call it wrong for one group to say their lives matter, then you single out another group, it’s hypocritical.
Also, if you are willing to say All Lives Matter, Blues Lives Matter, or Unborn Lives Matter, but are unwilling to say or acknowledge Black Lives Matter, it comes off as if there is only one word in the “Lives Matter” slogan you have an issue with – Black.
Now is the time to listen, not lecture. If you genuinely believe that all lives matter, then black lives matter. You don’t have to cancel it out. There are times when people just need to be heard. Hurting people don’t need to be corrected all the time. Sometimes, they just need someone to understand, even if that understanding is made up at the start.
I am begging you, please, stop with the All Lives Matter right now. Especially pastors. It’s not helping. I see it over and over, and it makes me wonder if all lives really do matter. Be the light. Be the hands and feet. Jesus listened. He had compassion. Let’s try to do the same.