It’s difficult this week to think about or talk about or write about anything other than the the back-to-back, well-documented deaths of black men by police officers and the visceral reaction so many of us are having—and have had leading up to these deaths, in such an already violent, tragic year.
I’ve had the ‘black lives matter vs all lives matter’ discussion before. Many people have. Every time I come back to a breakdown presented almost a year ago by Reddit user (first seen by me via Mic) that I feel is worth sharing and worth being seen by anyone who has already seen it.
The full discussion is below, but Mic author Aaron Morrison did a wonderful job boiling it down:
On Reddit, user GeekAesthete broke it down with a perfect analogy:
Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say, “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “Everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — Indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!
The user continues:
The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share,” which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.
Then, the kicker:
Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: It’s saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.
As Morrison explains, the reaction online was powerful (again, read the original Mic article to see more). But more to the point, I feel like this explains what seems to be such a difficult-to-grasp concept so elegantly. And I feel it may be of use to some of us in the coming days, weeks, months.
Very much related—an essay by Sally Kohn: “This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter.”
Let’s hope for better times and peace.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images.