What is the point of All Lives Matter?


Photo by Piper Lilley

All Lives Matter is often the glib response you’ll hear from certain individuals when Black Lives Matter is brought up. At this point, it’s clear why this sort of rhetoric is problematic. It assumes that BLM means black lives are worth more than other lives when the brutality displayed by the cops towards black people says otherwise. Countless allusions have been made to show the absurdity of All Lives Matter. Here’s a common one, if a house is burning in your neighborhood and the firefighters arrive to take out the fire saying “all houses matter,” at that moment would be ludicrous. A more convincing one would be, “yeah, stop killing us, we’re getting brutalized by the cops.”


But that’s the point of All Lives Matter, isn’t it? It’s not supposed to make sense or serve as a counterargument to BLM. It’s disingenuous rhetoric meant to distract from Black people’s pursuit of justice and equality in this country. So it’s not enough to explain why All Lives Matter is problematic because, to some extent, people who say that know they are engaging in bad faith. Are we surprised then that people who say “All Lives Matter” also say “Blue Lives Matter”? We are up against not just misinformation but a distortion of reality that is built on fear, paranoia and distrust in our most basic institutions. The most extreme version of this has been the rise of QAnon.


To be brutally honest, we do not have time to merely refute the constant barrage of Trumpist talking points. Black people are still being murdered in the streets by police officers. Officers who are also collaborating with white vigilantes in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse. (this is nothing new, white supremacist groups have steadily infiltrated police departments all over the country for years) There is still no justice for the murder of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police officers in her own home. What’s so frustrating is knowing for a fact that there is going to be another Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake or George Floyd. The same people who stand with the All Lives Matter movement have tried to justify their murder in any number of ways including painting them as criminals, defending the use of deadly force by police.


The future for black lives seems hopeless because this has been going on for years. The question now is, what can we all do individually and collectively to bring an end to this? I think one of the many things we can do as an institution of higher learning is to center the debate around black perspectives. That means talking about what it means to defund the police, what Angela Davis and so many other Black activists mean by Prison Abolition, and finally, having a broader conversation about how systems like policing in America work. That is one way that we not only refute talking points like All Lives Matter but also set up a counter-narrative.


By Alpha Bah

Photo by Piper Lilley

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