The Denial & Dismissal of #AllLivesMatter
If we lived in a world where freedom, pill liberty and justice for ALL was actually a way of life, prescription in which everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or identity had an actual chance for parity and unqualified access, then we would have no need to interrogate why people feel compelled to respond to the Black Lives Matter Movement with All Lives Matter, would we?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of injustice anywhere being a threat to justice everywhere. His inference is that we do not exist alone in the world merely as individuals. Walls, fences, bridges or tunnels will not keep you safe as you attempt to disassociate yourselves from those who are outside of your cultural location, class, or belief system. Pretending that the issues of communities of color in America do not affect all of us, or our quality of life, is like walking on thin ice. No matter how softly or slowly you’re walking, the ground beneath you is faulty ground, shaky ground. When the ice breaks, as it will inevitably do, you will get wet and if you can’t swim, you will drown. This includes the upwardly mobile and educated class of black and brown people who think they’ve arrived, moved beyond the issues of race and class. We live in a nation founded on the platitudes of equality and justice for all. The inherent oblivion exhibited by those who want to proclaim “all lives matter” in the face of the appalling disparities we have as a nation in education, employment, housing, justice, rates of poverty and incarceration, are either tone deaf, in denial or intentionally unconscious. Because the absolute inequities that exist at the intersections of race and class are as clear as the statistical data indicates they are.
Although all lives should matter, it is clear that they do not. When you interject this clearly flawed assertion, you are proclaiming a privileged position to people and communities who do not share your privilege. Although for many African American people, it has been difficult, and sometimes even painful to pledge allegiance to the flag because of the cognitive dissonance in the words spoken in the pledge, contrasted by the LIVED experience of African descended peoples in this country. This has been especially true during decades of state sponsored terrorism, slave codes, sundown towns, the hatred and denigration of the Jim Crow south and legalized segregation throughout the 50s, 60s, and even 70s. Historically, the Black community believed that the equal opportunity they fought and died for would someday come to pass. In the meantime, the Black community often pledged allegiance on a hope and prayer, not because they were experiencing the “life, liberty and justice for all” that our nation’s pledge of allegiance asserts, but rather because they hoped someday it would become as true for them and their children as it had always been for others.
Those who want to shout down #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter need to recognize that because we proclaim something as true, does not mean it is personified as truth. Stop the denial and commit to elevating and valuing the people, whose lives and very existence endures assault, neglect and the type of institutional and systemic oppression that threatens life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and ultimately, excludes them from equal access to the opportunity that is their birthright as citizens. And, it must be said, there is a debt that is owed to a community whose ancestors’ blood, sweat and unpaid labor built the wealth upon which these United States of America were built.
Up Next Week: Can we have some restorative justice?