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When All Lives Don’t Matter/Let Grandma Rest

August 13, 2015

A little over one year has passed since the murder of Mike Brown, and the beginning of what some activists are calling the “black liberation movement.”  What started with protests in Ferguson the night of Brown’s death has grown into a nationwide push against police brutality and systematic oppression, led by black youth.  Now that the dialogue has been started, people have been able to address more complex components of systematic oppression, such as biased sentencing, segregated housing, and the lack of resources in underserved communities.  Through all of this, there is one thing that we can definitively say:

Thank God for Twitter.

Through Twitter and other forms of social media we have been exposed to an unprecedented amount of marginalized people voicing theirstories to the world, or at least, to the owners of timelines on which their tweets appear.  The driving force behind this social media era of Enlightenment has been the #blacklivesmatter hashtag.  You may have heard of it.  But we’re not here to talk about that.  This post is about the attention-seeking antihero by the name of #AllLivesMatter.

Imagine walking into a complete stranger’s funeral.  You casually whistle as you walk past all of the mourning people, take a quick peek at the body, and then plop down in the front row right next to the family. No one knows you or why you’re there but they let you stay because this funeral should focus on honoring their loved one’s life, not debating whether you belong or not.  The service begins, and after about 3 minutes, you’ve had enough of this BS.  It’s totally unfair that all these people came to this funeral, but were nowhere to be found when your grandmother died 7 months ago (even though she had a much bigger and much more expensive funeral…but still these people weren’t there). Therefore, you unzip your neon green rain jacket (a stark contrast from the mourners in suits and all-black dresses), whip out a picture of your dead grandmother, and place it on top of the deceased body for all to honor. Because #AllLivesMatter. (End Scene)

The moral of that story is that it would be incredibly rude and offensive to take away from peoples’ suffering and pain by saying “what about me?” at a loved one’s funeral.  So why would you do it to an entire people fighting against decades of suffering and pain?

The only reason #AllLivesMatter exists is to take attention away from the fact that certain people are being racially profiled, unfairly jailed, and killed by police at extremely disproportionate rates.

Read this. Repeat it. Internalize it.  It should be painfully obvious that society is structured around the fact that white lives matter. However, whenever a variation of “all lives matter” is used as a slogan, somehow black and brown people are left out of the equation (think: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”).  “Black lives matter” is our declaration that we truly do deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—true equality, not simply theoretical legal equality.

On July 26th, an unarmed white teenager named Zachary Hammond was shot and killed by an officer in Seneca, South Carolina. In doing a quick Twitter search after his death, there were noticeably few tweets containing the phrase #AllLivesMatter.  Rather, most of the people expressing outrage about Zachary’s murder and sympathy for his family were people from the #blacklivesmatter camp.  “All lives matter” only trends when “Black lives matter” does.  It only serves as a method of holding on to personal privilege and ignorance by silencing people.  When you hear a people fighting for their lives and you selfishly (and imaginarily) include yourself in that struggle simply to feel a sense of moral equality, you’re not only affirming that their voices really do not matter, but you’re also implying that as long as you feel comfortable, the continuation of their struggle is of no consequence to you. 

As long as voices within the black community continue to be silenced by the uncomfortable privileged, “all lives matter” will continue to be a slogan, instead of a reality.

Thank God for Twitter. Let your grandma rest.

The opinions expressed in this article represent those of the author, and not necessarily Catharsis Productions. Our blog may occasionally host content that does not directly reflect the sentiments of the company because the dialogue it generates may have value to our readers.

Aaron G. Allen

Aaron is an intern at Catharsis Productions.