Every Time You Say "All Lives Matter" You Are Being an Accidental Racist

Side view portrait of a casual man yelling into megaphone isolated on a white background
Side view portrait of a casual man yelling into megaphone isolated on a white background

I bet I have your attention now. And if you're pissed, trust me when I say I don't mean what you think I mean. Let me explain.

The basic premise behind "All Lives Matter" = we should not highlight that black lives matter because all lives matter.

As it turns out, you're not wrong: all lives do matter. But the problem with this premise lies in what goes unaddressed in your line of thinking.

See, "Black Lives Matter" is trying to highlight that there is demonstrable evidence that black lives matter less than white lives to the criminal justice system (and the American government as a whole).

Trying to communicate this to you is tricky. Because of this very system, you haven't been exposed to this sociocultural divide. You haven't had to witness firsthand the different forms it takes. You literally do not see the disparity in how your racial group is treated compared with others. You might not have noticed, for instance, the inherent biases of news media, such as the language used in coverage of different racial groups.

You may be saying to yourself, "I don't agree with the idea that the government treats racial groups differently." But the thing is, you are absolutely, categorically wrong. Don't take my word for it, read last year's National Book Award Winner, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which might begin to give you a sense of the bigger picture here.


If you subscribe to the premise of "All Lives Matter," it's likely that you live in a predominantly white area and the majority of your social group is white.

Don't you think it's interesting how I can be so sure that it's only white people saying "All Lives Matter"? How can I make such sweeping generalizations?

Basic logic. It's reasonable to expect that if you'd had to witness the gross injustices committed against those in non-white communities, you would understand why "All Lives Matter" is so harmful. You would understand that it is in fact you who is missing the point.

Before I go any further, please understand: I'm not judging you for where you live or who you socialize with; that's your choice. Admittedly, I led with a salty title. I've been doing that lately because nobody can seem to get through to you. I come from conservative Northeast Florida. Many of the people I see espousing "All Lives Matter" rhetoric are people I know to have good hearts, people who work hard and love their families, people who want to see good triumph in the world. Ultimately I'm trying to appeal to that goodness, in hopes that people like those from suburban Jacksonville can open their hearts beyond fear or pride and think about the bigger forces at play and put that innate desire for goodness to use.

I'm also not defending murders of police, like the recent events in Dallas. I am against murder and injustice across the board. Full stop.

What I am trying to do is indicate how maybe you haven't had the best seat in the house for the centuries-long movie called "America's Treatment of Black People."

In fact, you weren't even in the theater.

Let me put it this way: I don't watch hockey. So why should anybody listen to my opinion about hockey? I'm allowed to have one, sure, but isn't, say, Wayne Gretzky's a lot more valuable? If put in a room with Wayne and yours truly, wouldn't you think it wise to listen to his ideas over mine? Couldn't I too learn a lot about hockey by listening to Wayne Gretzky?

By that same logic, it stands to reason that White America should be doing extra work to listen and understand. In doing this, it becomes apparent that "Black Lives Matter" is trying to say what you're saying: that all lives matter equally. You're just missing the (many) ways in which our country is not standing by this principle. When you say "All Lives Matter," you're drawing attention away from a movement that would help push the country toward the version of itself where all lives actually do matter. In other words, when you say "All Lives Matter," you are perpetuating toxic racism and in fact causing harm. Because when you do, you're making it harder for the rest of the country to bring about positive change. You're broadcasting to others that change isn't necessary when it very much is.


Here's the awesome thing. You can totally stop being an ignorant racist right now. This instant. You don't even have to lift a finger. All you have to do is learn. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it is never a bad thing to learn. I love looking back at all the ways I've learned and grown into a better person. It takes courage and humility to acknowledge the ways we've been wrong or incorrect, but that's nothing compared to the feeling of personal growth and betterment you have on the other side.

Anyway, go check out Campaign Zero and/or get schooled by this 14-year-old boy: