How “All Lives Matter” dismisses America’s problem with race

How non-Black people use “All Lives Matter” and “colorblind” perspectives to dismiss America’s problem with race and White Privilege.


I just shared it with my daughter. She said, after my explanation, “But – when I say “All Lives Matter, I really mean that.” So I explained further that, in the context of continuing anti-Black violence in the US, saying ALM is a way of dismissing the problem and of reasserting White privilege and supremacy. (I gave her another example, using her advocacy of animals, which allowed her a lightbulb moment.

She said: “But I’m White” (Um, sort of). And I said, “And that’s fine. I’m not Black. But I am an ally, so I stand with Black struggles to protect Black bodies and to get justice.”

Recently, I’ve been reminded of how, for immigrants in the middle class, it is often quite challenging to stand in solidarity with the struggle for Black justice. Immigrants often arrive here and find a place of comfort with White middle class values, and don’t find commonality with Blacks (because they want to avoid association with the oppression and the struggle). I hope we educate ourselves in historical paradigms of oppression and inequality. I hope we don’t grumble and sigh and I hope we don’t say, “Oh get over it” or “Why can’t you calm down?” or “All Lives Matter.”

There was probably a moment in your life when you were wronged, and you wanted an ally. But all your potential allies said, “Oh, I can’t stand alongside you. After all, Powerful Person has such strong ties with my family, and he is so famous and so nice, and I don’t have much in common with your scrubby self. I want to be like Powerful Person some day, and solidarity with you blocks my trajectory.” Middle class upwardly mobile non-Black people like myself have so much difficulty empathizing with Black struggles, and the Black prison pipeline, and the fact that Blacks can get shot for no crime at all, because we do not have that risk.

Imagine raising a Black child to face those dangers as soon as he hits his teen years. If I were to contemplate that possibility, there’s no way I would be able to “calm down” or “get over it”.

I know people who are too refined and sweet to watch videos like this of Alton Sterling, but who are quick to dismiss them with “All Lives Matter.” The rhetoric of such liberals will demonize the movement for Black justice; they will dismiss the movement to protect Black bodies from state violence as somehow ill-mannered and angry. And their cliches merely veil their solidarity and their alliance with White supremacy.

Here is a powerful response to one of these liberals.

A few recommended readings on the subject:

3 thoughts on “How “All Lives Matter” dismisses America’s problem with race”

  1. Well said baitee and honest. My own feeling about “black” even though I hace had mant blacks etc. my friends it was at the time of election of Obama I felt I finally “got over” the feelings that black is different. From childhood like me others in the East rae brought up with the media presentation of Blacks are slaves and and you see their behavior different here after coming to USA. It has taken me really long to consider Blacks as like us all and like Raihana says All lives Matter” I feel that one too. My love for Raihana

  2. I can’t help but wonder where blended individuals fit in. A person, especially a child, who is half black and half white must suffer a lot of trauma from the BLM and ALM contingents. I wish I could sit and discuss this with you over tea, but I’m not in Chicago now.

  3. I am with you, mamujan, in growing past my former mindset. Rod, I hear you on the different competing loyalties. But I don’t see these loyalties as necessarily corresponding to racial identity. Let’s chat over tea when you get back!

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