When the Tenors' Remigio Pereira added "All lives matter" to 'O Canada' at the MLB All-Star game, he hit a wrong note for many.
The group issued an apology, but Pereira said he did it out of love.
"All lives matter" sounds like an innocent and inspiring rallying cry to many, including celebrities like Jennifer Lopez. But the phrase has been used in attempts to shut down conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality and issues of inequality for black people, and, as a result, many feel it doesn't actually advocate for equality.
Observers were quick to denounce Pereira and J.Lo's "All lives matter" statements, and discussion on why the phrase is dismissive and misleading has been more prominent in the days after Black Lives Matter's Toronto Pride protest, the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the shooting of Dallas cops at a BLM protest.
They're conversations one Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition co-founder thinks are critical.
Allies Can Engage And Educate
Instead of shutting people out, Janaya Khan believes allies who engage in conversations with those who say "All lives matter" can foster change of hearts.
"It’s the work of allies to call people in, and create those teachable moments," Khan told The Huffington Post Canada. "It’s up to educators to really step up, those who allocate resources, make policies; we need to name anti-black racism as a reality because I think it’s so easily and readily denied in a place like Canada especially and across the States."
'Black Lives Matter' Is Inclusive: Co-Founder
Contrary to the belief of some, saying "Black Lives Matter" doesn't mean other lives don't.
The term "Black Lives Matter" first surfaced on social media in 2013, when, the Guardian reports, activist Alicia Garza wrote a Facebook post in response to the not guilty verdict given to George Zimmerman, after he killed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
Inspired by that post, Garza's friend Patrisse Cullors started to re-share Garza's message with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. It spread widely online after the hashtag was used as a slogan during riots in Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black teen who was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson.
From the hashtag arose the movement Black Lives Matter (BLM), which operates as deregulated, grassroots chapters organizing against police brutality around North America. The chapters are driven in part by the activism of black women, as well as queer and trans black individuals.
"When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state," a BLM statement reads.
"We are talking about the ways in which black lives are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity." —Black Lives Matter
For Khan, what people fail to recognize is that BLM is a movement that fights for awareness of the issues affecting many groups.
"We are in solidarity with indigenous folks, in solidarity with Sikhs and Muslims, in solidarity with Palestine," Khan said. "We are a group that is largely made up of queer and trans people who are equally invested in fighting for sexual and gender diversity. More than anything, we are a freedom struggle and that pertains to freedom for all."
Why Are People Saying 'All Lives Matter'?
"All lives matter" has become a counterpoint expression to Black Lives Matter whenever it is brought up in conversation. It's often used by those, such as "Empire" actress Raquel Castro, who appeal for universal empathy and awareness on all violence, regardless of race.
However, the phrase often appears when individuals, such as TV personality Piers Morgan, decide to rebut someone else's support of Black Lives Matter.
Saying "All lives matter" shifts the conversation away from the the inequalities and violence faced by black people, to a dismissive statement of goodwill, critics say.
So far, "All lives matter" hasn't been used as a call to action against all violence, political or otherwise. No anti-violence or anti-police brutality activism have resulted to date from the saying, which is a telltale sign for Khan that the expression does not support its literal meaning.
What's The Problem With Saying All Lives Matter?
"'All lives matter,' more than anything, has become a means to shut down and derail any comment around why black lives are important," Khan said. "That to me is very suggestive at this point in time."
For Khan, those who continue to use it are willfully ignoring anti-black violence.
"There’s been an incredible amount of time, analysis, resources and curriculum as to why "All lives matter" is not a movement. You really begin to recognize that it's not because people don’t recognize the distinction between 'All lives matter' and 'Black Lives Matter.' It's actually that they don’t believe black lives matter," Khan said.
"I can say a hundred times that all lives matter in principle but not in practice, but really what’s become clear is that we just don’t agree. You don’t actually agree that black lives have inherent value."
'All Lives Matter' Isn't Applied Universally
"When people say 'All lives matter' in response to 'Black Lives Matter,' they are not simply opening their arms to the greater diversity of humanity. Instead, they are taking race out of the conversation," writes attorney and HuffPost blogger David Bedrick. It ignores the violence that specifically affects black people and overlooks both personal accounts and statistics that show there is a problem with how black populations are treated by police.
For example, when adjusted for population size, unarmed black Americans are five times more likely to be shot than unarmed white Americans, the Washington Post reports.
Twitter users have pointed out that "All lives matter" doesn't apply in all cases, using the hashtag #AllLivesDidntMatter to point out various incidents when "All lives matter" failed to deliver.
And so, "All lives matter" has become synonymous with a Black Lives Matter callback, rather than an inclusive statement.
Explaining The Problem With 'All Lives Matter'
"All lives matter" has been compared to other reactionary slogans that derail conversation rather than addressing social inequity issues. Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition co-founder Sandy Hudson told CBC that the phrase was similar to the term "heterosexual pride."
Many have analogized "All lives matter" in various ways online, in order to highlight how inappropriate derailing is.
Change Does Happen: Khan
As one Reddit user opined, the phrase "Black Lives Matter" has an implicit "too." Black Lives Matter is a reminder that black lives, which have been historically dehumanized and enslaved, should also matter.
Khan said that BLM has seen success in engaging and educating those who may have at first supported "All lives matter."
"There are people... who have not understood what BLM is about and initially were very taken aback," Khan said. "Those folks have transformed in these [past] three years and have said 'I actually understand what this means, I understand that black lives matter is an intersectional movement.'"
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