I want to think that most white people are just generally confused about this issue, and they don’t mean to be saying that all lives matter in a way that is as bad as it really is. Oh, sure, there are people who are willfully misunderstanding, or worse, they know exactly what they are doing, but I want to give some benefit of the doubt.
Here is a simple breakdown of how these two slogans have much deeper meaning than just the words themselves.
Firstly, Black Lives Matter in no way implies that other lives don’t matter. Specifically, it does not imply that white lives do not matter. White lives do matter, obviously. But go back a ways. White people didn’t come to America as slaves, against their will. And they came with expectations of making their lives better, and being treated fairly and equally.
The fact is that every time some group tries to get treated a little better than they were, when they struggle for recognition and fair treatment, or try to get new rights given to them, it doesn’t take anything away from the people who already have those things. Gay marriage has no effect on straight marriage. In the same way, Black Lives Matter isn’t trying to take anything away from white people. They just want to be treated like white people treat each other.
The whole Black Lives Matter movement is based on real things. They are more likely to be pulled over while driving, and the outcome is more likely to be worse. They are more likely to be profiled, more likely to be followed around a store by security. Much more likely to have their house raided by police, to be arrested, to be beaten, to be shot, all by the police.
They can’t take it for granted that they will be treated as fairly as white people in a lot of circumstances. This is what institutionalized racism means. It doesn’t mean they have to drink out of their own separate water fountains anymore, or use the service entrance, or be denied almost any good jobs. But it does still mean that black people have a harder time getting a good job than their white counterparts.
This whole movement was brought to a boil by one too many police-caused deaths of unarmed black people. And it is still happening, at a rate that is inconsistent with the percentage of black people that there are.
Stop acting like this is some way of saying that white people don’t matter. If someone says “Black Lives Matter” it doesn’t impact you negatively in any way to just agree, or at least not respond by saying all lives matter, because they do. But black lives matter too. And we can all say “all lives matter”, just as soon as all lives matter to the same degree.