Black Lives Matter: Why it’s controversial to say ‘All Lives Matter’ instead


By Rachel Au

Black Lives Matter: Why it’s controversial to say ‘All Lives Matter’ instead

The Black Lives Matter movement began as a hashtag in 2013 after “George Zimmerman was acquitted despite shooting and killing African American teenager Trayvon Martin the year before”. Its prominence grew after the deaths of two more African Americans—Michael Brown and Eric Garner—at the hands of the police in 2014. More recently, an African American man by the name of George Floyd was murdered after a white police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds and turned a deaf ear to the words: “Please, I can’t breathe.” Three other policemen at the scene of the crime did nothing.

Except they’re not the only ones who have lost their lives or faced violence due to racism. They’re not the only ones that have missed opportunities because of the colour of their skin. They’re not the only ones who were disbelieved when speaking a truth, just because they are Black. Consider this: “7.2 African Americans per million died at the hands of the police while 2.9 per million white Americans were killed by the police.” Consider systemic racism. From job opportunities to quality of education to housing areas offered, Blacks were undermined, denied and excluded. Ben & Jerry’s surprisingly explained this really well here. Alternatively, you can watch the Instagram video below for a better idea of what systemic racism is:

So, yes, all lives do matter but not all lives are at stake every day, for all days, like how Black people has faced. The generalisation. The stereotypes. Withheld opportunities aside, this is about their lives. Lives lost, family members lost, friends lost. So right now, saying Black Lives Matter spells urgency for things to change. Saying All Lives Matter drowns that out. If you’re still unsure of the difference, the following posts explains it best:

1. “When it comes to Black Lives Matter, I think what folks that are writing ‘All Lives Matter’ need to understand is that for some people black lives don’t matter at all. So for us, black lives matter. So, while you may have the best intentions in saying, ‘All Lives Matter,’ remember: For some people, black lives don’t matter at all.” — Ashton Kutcher


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2. “It’s not the one on fire right now.”

3. “If all lives matter, then why are black people killed for just being black? Why are immigrants persecuted? Why are white people given opportunities that people of other races aren’t?” — Billie Eilish

4. #BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important-it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on Black lives, we understand that when Black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide reaching and transformative for society as a whole. When we are able to end hyper-criminalisation and sexualization of Black people and end the poverty, control, and surveillance of Black people, every single person in this world has a better shot at getting and staying free. When Black people get free, everybody gets free… When you drop “Black” from the equation of whose lives matter, and then fail to acknowledge it came from somewhere, you further a legacy of erasing Black lives and Black contributions from our movement legacy. And consider whether or not when dropping the Black you are, intentionally or unintentionally, erasing Black folks from the conversation or homogenising very different experiences.” — Alicia Garza, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter

5. “Stop killing us for no reason.”

6. “Is your house on fire?”






12. “No matter how ‘well-intentioned’ it was meant to be… saying ‘All Lives Matter’ is a form of gaslighting.”  — Jess Bird

Malaysia isn’t innocent too when it comes to cases of racism, violence under police custody and unequal opportunities, all based on the colour of the skin. But that is a topic for another story. We will, however, like to add that another thing we’ve learnt recently is the subliminal meaning behind saying “I don’t see colour” and here’s why it’s worth thinking twice about these simple words.

“For me, seeing in color means a few things. It’s seeing people the way God made them – seeing them in their fullness. Yes, that includes their ethnicity… but also their passions, their fears, their favorite things. All of it! When you say ‘I don’t see color,’ I hear ‘I’m choosing to ignore parts of you.’ And if you don’t see me, you can’t fight for me.” — Danielle Coke

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to educate yourself more on this, as we have been too, you may read:

How can I as an individual be an ally in social and global issues?

All the resources you need to support the Black Lives Matter movement

Malaysia is complicit: Why the #BLM movement isn’t far from home

For more #BLM stories on the site, click here.

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