Every time a political candidate is asked whether "Black lives matter," I cringe. Not because it's not a valid question, but because there are only two possible answers -- yes or no. In fact, it should be a very easy question to answer. But for some reason, there are too many people who are scared to say "Yes." #AllLivesMatter is never a valid answer to the question. Let me explain why.
Value is not a zero-sum game in non-economic circumstances. That means, the value of one thing does not automatically affect or lower the value of another. One woman's beauty does not take away from the beauty of another woman. One person's accomplishments don't diminish the importance of another person's accomplishments. If I say, "A is very smart", it does not mean that B is not also very intelligent. Maybe A has been socially conditioned to believe that "A's" cannot be smart, and A simply needs a reminder. In the same way, focusing on the historical injustices suffered by one group of people does not mean that other groups of people do not matter. I think most compassionate people can agree that all lives matter! But the term "all" has always been subjective in America.
For my original interpretation theorists, when the Declaration of Independence was written, "All men are created equal" meant, "All white men." Black people, Native Americans, Immigrants, and women were excluded. Even more, contrary to popular belief, this phrase does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. Sure, the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection to all citizens. But what did that really mean? It took nearly one hundred years, from 1868 (when the 14th amendment was ratified), until 1964 (when the Civil Rights Act was adopted), for Americans to come to the conclusion that "equal protection" should include minorities, too.
It is easy to change the definition of the word "all", but it takes a much longer time for that to resonate in the hearts and minds of a nation. Think about it. We still live in a nation where people gleefully celebrate Columbus Day and Confederate generals. So, to say that #Blacklivesmatter is just a simple reminder that, "All men are created equal" means black people, too. It does not mean that only black lives matter. To assume so would mean that every time we focus on one issue, other issues are not important. That can't possibly be correct. #Cancersucks does not mean that other life-threatening diseases don't equally "suck."
I agree that an over emphasis on race can be divisive rather than unifying. But that is not an excuse to ignore the racial issues that exist in this country. We have to find a healthy balance. We, as Americans, created this mess, so we, as Americans, are responsible for cleaning it up. Sweeping it under the rug won't solve any problems. #Blacklivesmatter is not an anti-white movement :) It is not, and should not be, a "liberal" thing or a "conservative" thing. It's an American thing.
Photo Credits: Emmanuel Brown