White Privilege Says: “All Lives Matter”
I’m going to make this really simple by expanding on an analogy that’s been floating around.
Five people, just five regular people, work to build a house. At the end of the work day all of them go to dinner and the cook has prepared a hearty meal. All five sit around the table famished and food is served. The cook has favorites. Person 1 gets served a plate piled high with food. Person 2 gets about a medium plate. Person 3, a gets maybe half-a-plate of food, Person 4 gets about the same and Person 5 gets no food at all. This is not the first time this has happened either. Person 5 regularly gets left out.
Finally, Person 5 decides to stand up for themselves saying: “I deserve my fair share!”
Person 1 immediately snaps back: “Everyone deserves their fair share!” Person 1 then turns their attention back to consuming their heaping plate of food.
Person 5 says louder: “I deserve my fair share!”
Person 1 gets angry and shouts: “Stop disrupting our meal you terrorist! Everyone deserves their fair share! Shut up and let us eat!”
Now if Person 1 really believed that “Everyone deserves their fair share” they would follow up that statement by going over to Person 5 and sharing some of their food. In fact, they’d share with Persons 3 and 4 as well if they really believe in the idea of a “fair share.” That’s the only way the statement “Everyone deserves their fair share” can be considered genuine.
But since Person 1 simply continues eating, leaving Person 5 to starve, then it is clear Person 1 doesn’t actually believe that “Everyone deserves their fair share.” Rather, Person 1 is simply saying that to shut Person 5 up so they can eat from their heaping plate of privilege – I mean food – without being disturbed or feeling guilty about the obvious injustice being plated out in front of them.
Okay, so now let’s say, the cook is the US Justice System and the food is justice. Let’s say Person 5 represents Black people in the US and let’s replace the phrase “I deserve my fair share!” with say… “Black Lives Matter.” With me so far? Okay so how about if Person 1 represents white people in the US and the phrase “Everyone deserves their fair share” is like, I dunno, maybe “All Lives Matter” perhaps?
Now if all lives really mattered to the people who are saying so, then they would hear people saying “Black Lives Matter” and be like:
“Yeah! Black lives totally matter. Black people are a subset of all people, and since I genuinely believe all lives matter I can agree wholeheartedly that Black lives do matter.”
Then, maybe, the person who genuinely cares about all lives mattering will probably ask “I wonder why the Black people saying Black lives matter even have to say that? Is something happening that is making it seem like their Black lives don’t matter?”
Then maybe this person will take a critical look at the situation and listen to what Black people are saying. Furthermore, when they notice that there are many situations in which the US Justice System treats Black people in a way that implies their Black lives don’t matter, they would advocate on behalf of the Black people being treated in this way and insist substantially and unequivocally that Black lives be treated as though they matter.
As for those who say All Lives Matter without actually behaving in a way that suggests they really believe that… Of course all lives matter you dense waste of space. That’s the point! All lives include Black lives. The Black Lives Matter movement came about in response to a justice system that, through its patterns of police brutality, prosecutions, school-to-prison-pipelines, disparate treatment and outcomes in sentencing policies, the drug war and such, have shown that Black lives are not valued as much as other lives.
If you really believed that all lives matter you would be doing advocacy for all the lives that are treated as less-than in the US system. You would be so busy advocating for Black lives, Brown lives, Indigenous lives, LGBTQIA lives, Women’s lives, Children’s lives, the lives of the poor, the lives of the elderly, the lives of people with disabilities… – you would be advocating all day every day. But you’re not.
So here’s what I hear when you say All Lives Matter in the way it’s usually used:
- Shut up!
- You are making me uncomfortable so I will say something to derail what you’re saying and make me feel good.
- No, Black lives do not matter
- Your Black life doesn’t mean shit to me
- Shut up!
So many people are complacent, incapable of critical thinking, accustomed to regurgitating what they’re fed without considering what things really mean. Thus a phrase that is true, and that completely supports the idea that Black lives matter (too), has been turned into a rebuttal against this simple inconvenient statement. Because, in this world where white supremacy is the norm, admitting that Black lives actually matter just as much as your white life does is, on some level, threatening to your ego. How inconvenient.
If you find “Black Lives Matter” to be a controversial statement that needs a rebuttal, you are part of the problem.
So if you fix your mouth (or fingers) to say (type) All Lives Matter in response to someone insisting that Black Lives Matter, you better follow that shit up with admitting you therefore wholeheartedly agree with the statement being made and will be sure to act accordingly by advocating that all lives, including Black ones, get treated as though they matter. Because if everyone on the #AllLivesMatter bandwagon really did that – this whole fucking situation would probably be fixed by now.
© 2015 Kelene Blake, All Rights Reserved