Many of my white friends and family contend that All Lives Matter. I have examined this, considered it, and have tried to make sense of what these individuals are communicating or trying to believe.
Why is this statement so hard to stomach when we hear white people state, "All Lives Matter"? Well, I have been around you, listened to you, watched you... and I know, without a question of doubt, that you struggle to truly believe that all lives matter. I know many want to believe it…. But reality is not kind to those who want something without understanding it. The hostility, disparaging comments, assumptions, and outright violence towards non-white people is deeply ingrained in white culture (and guess what? Racism is a systemic strategy, a vile manipulation… dare I say, a conspiracy, perpetuated by institutions, governments, and the media. The system is working and has been working for hundreds if not thousands of years. In fact I would say it’s one of the most effective strategies ever developed… I know what you are thinking… and please STOP…. This strategy of manipulation works best when those with limited, but threatened power, control it and use it to maintain the little power they have. The strategy subtly reminds us that our lives matters more than others... this sense of entitlement has been deeply imprinted on us, and we participate blindly each and every day.
I could share specifics about the countless comments and statements I have heard in bars, in stores, churches, and at family gatherings, but I won’t, because it’s deeply disturbing that white folks are so casual in our hatred towards of others… and make no mistake this is a form of hatred. A culture does not kill and dominate so violently as ours, in the name of anything but hatred.
The point is, up until hearing the statement “Black Lives Matter”, white folks would have never thought of saying "All Lives Matter", because we know that all lives don’t matter. For white culture, lives matter when non-whites adopt white culture, white faith, white values… assimilate to our ways. When I am in exclusively white spaces and places (which in Wisconsin is not too hard to find), it is far more likely to hear disparaging comments about a non-white person than anything remotely empowering or affirming. If an affirming statement is made, it always comes with a qualifying statement, as if this individual’s quality is an exception rather than the norm.
The reality is, those who repeat the mantra “All Lives Matter” are some of the last people I would have my non-white friends interact with intentionally. The fact that I even have to state this or need to consider the safety of my non-white friends and peers is proof that all lives don’t matter. So, if you are one of those “all lives matter” white folks who truly believe that all lives matter, here are some challenges for you. Start with the following practice. Let’s call it the All Lives Matter Seminar Step One: Start paying attention to those around you. Try and document or note the number of overt and or passive racist comments you hear. You don't need to call it out, just observe. This is an exercise in external awareness.
Step Two: This one is tough. Try to become aware of your own thoughts. Notice how often you default to a racist attitude or assumption. This will be hard because the media, which we all consume, pushes this narrative and justifies our bias… this is mind control 101: affirm the consumers conscious and unconscious bias! If you hear yourself say “those'' people, you might want to examine what that actually means. Ism’s have gotten wise, and have become more creative in their ability to be disguised. *Remember, and I mean this, you truly want to believe that all lives matter, and this oppressive, nefarious conspiracy has corrupted our thinking and pervaded our deepest beliefs. This is a form of internal awareness. A more advanced practice is noticing what happens in your body when you make remarks or statements that are counter to your values… your body knows and even more your spirit knows!
Step Three: The next time you are in a bar, a church, a store, or any other public place and you hear someone make a disparaging comment or statement about a black, brown or even a poor white person, speak up and engage that individual or group. Affirm your belief that “all lives matter”, including black and brown lives. This is taking your internal awareness and making it external. Then sit back and watch what happens. How do you think the person you are calling out will respond? Do you anticipate feeling threatened? Now imagine being black and or brown and doing this exact same thing. Do you feel like you are valued? Do you feel heard? Do you feel safe?
Do you feel like you matter?