We’ve all been there. You’re watching one of the many videos that have been flooding your timeline on protests throughout the country, littered with chants like: “this is what democracy looks like,” “no justice, no peace,” and, of course, “black lives matter.” As if unconsciously, your eyes wander over to the comments, where you’re greeted by every blacktivist’s worst enemy: #AllLivesMatter.
After the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, it’s hard to wrap one’s head around the fact that people are still chanting this hashtag when there are graphic videos all over the media showing the deaths of blacks at the hands of police. However, though politicians and celebrities like President Obama and Troian Bellisario have done a good job in pointing out the fact that the Black Lives Matter movement is not an attempt to reject the problems facing people of other ethnicities, there is a reason this hashtag still has enough weight to surface on social media. #AllLivesMatter is an ostracizing movement, in that it is a direct opposition to #BlackLivesMatter and therefore rejects the idea that the profiling, excessive force, and deaths inflicted on blacks are any different than that which may be experienced by other ethnicities. However, #AllLivesMatter is disguised as an inclusive movement.
— Zoe De Toledo (@zoedetoledo) March 23, 2016
#AllLivesMatter promotes the idea that blacks have experiences similar to other ethnic communities and that the movement should encompass such allegedly shared experiences. #BlackLivesMatter, according to #ALM supporters, implies that blacks seek their own privileged space in society. Groups other than blacks face death at the hands of religion, their profession, racial profiling, and excessive force. In short, #AllLivesMatter is promoted as embodying unity and equality, that numerous groups are targeted in ways similar to those in which blacks are targeted and the basic truth is that all lives matter, not just black lives. #AllLivesMatter disguises itself as a movement built on widespread care and kindness – a kind of sympathy and solidarity that #BlackLivesMatter reserves for blacks and only blacks. However, saying #AllLivesMatter is in no way kind, caring, or inclusive. In maintaining this kumbaya, “we are the world” image, #AllLivesMatter fails to acknowledge that there are problems specifically facing the black community and why these problems are specific to the black community. Most importantly, considering #AllLivesMatter seeks to better all lives, by ostracizing #BlackLivesMatter, it rejects propositions to better the lives of nearly 43 million Americans – and frankly, doesn’t give propositions of its own either.
Um Keke what? I don’t just cry for black people I cry for people. Because that’s what we all are, people. https://t.co/zHCgNb4yp6
— Keke Palmer (@KekePalmer) July 7, 2016
So, what does saying #AllLivesMatter do? For one, it fails to acknowledge that “bettering lives” doesn’t occur by refusing to scrutinize specific situations of oppression. Though the experiences of various ethnic communities in the United States and across the world may seem similar in that they often have the same fatal outcome, they don’t have the same causes and can’t be embodied in one movement. Keke Palmer, for example, sparked Twitter outrage after Tweeting #AllLivesMatter because “people are getting killed over religion too,” equating #BlackLivesMatter with solely crying for black people. Little do Palmer and those that side with her know that social movements are separate but equal. In the history of social movements, even if they occur in the same time period, they take on different paths and names because different issues need to be addressed. For example, when feminist protest and anti-Vietnam protest both occurred throughout the 1970s, people didn’t try to silence feminist protesters by saying that men needed to be included too, since so many were losing their lives in the war. Rather, two different movements arose and both had a lasting impact. #AllLivesMatter poses as a hashtag that encompasses various social movements and protects various lives, when really, all it does is jumble different deaths together instead of acknowledging a specific past behind certain deaths – a past whose acknowledgment is vital to moving forward. Additionally, as #AllLivesMatter insists that the systemic pattern of discrimination faced by blacks is not different from the kinds of violence and discrimination facing other ethnic and religious groups, it fails to provide any solution to better the numerous “lives” it promotes.
If all lives matter… SHOW US!!! Prove it! Show us our bodies hold the same value. There is no excuse for the slaughter. None.
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) July 7, 2016
#AllLivesMatter doesn’t back any effective movement. In fact, #AllLivesMatter does nothing to better all lives. Have the originators of #AllLivesMatter come forward and created a resource by which people across the country can publish events to help spread awareness and help families of victims? Have #AllLivesMatter supporters come together to protest some of these other “lives” that #BlackLivesMatter isn’t including? Have they protested against police brutality on whites or urged politicians to take action on those religious deaths Palmer mentioned? No? Then what have they been doing?
#AllLivesMatter has instead tried to deter people from a movement that actually does these things. For example, #BlackLivesMatter supporter and star of Awkward Black Girl Issa Rae set up a GoFundMe page to send Alton Sterling’s children to college. The page has surpassed its $200K goal and has earned $685,459 so far. #BlackLivesMatter chapters and supporters have also organized protests in New York City, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, and Newark, among other cities, amassing thousands of supporters. The same can’t be said for #AllLivesMatter, no matter how kindhearted its backers claim themselves to be.
#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean other lives don’t. Like people who say “Save The Rainforests” aren’t saying “Fuck All Other Types of Forests”
— Matt McGorry (@MattMcGorry) July 18, 2015
At a time when death is occurring under various circumstances, as we can see by the deaths of Sandra Bland and Yvette Smith, five police officers in Dallas, and hundreds in Baghdad as a result the recent truck bombing, the urgency to address every case of death and try to find a means of connecting them is understandable. However, a hashtag as unoriginal and reactive as #AllLivesMatter is not the way to do it. It does the complete opposite of its alleged purpose, by silencing the demands of an oppressed group rather than emphasizing unity with that group. Before you say #AllLivesMatter, recognize that your version of “unity” is actually the equivalent of separation and disrespect.