All lives matter

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A white man counter-protests a Black Lives Matter rally with an "all lives matter" sign mixed with blue lives matter symbolism.

All lives matter is a slogan used by those who disagreed with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Origin

Google Trends comparison.

Although slogans with similar meanings have been used for centuries, the specific phrase "all lives matter" didn't come about until 2014 as a response to the 2013 slogan, "black lives matter." A look at Google Trends shows how it rises and falls as a reaction after "black lives matter" gains traction. This helps demonstrate that "all live matter" was created as a way for Conservatives to appropriate the success of the phrase "black lives matter," while, at the same time, negate its meaning. Since the Black Lives Matter movement was created to fight racism, and "all lives matter" was created to oppose Black Lives Matter, I see "all lives matter" as a dog whistle for racism.

Context

I see two different contexts for using the phrase, "all lives matter." The first is by people who use it not knowing its connection to Black Lives Matter. To them, it's just a positive uplifting phrase, and their ignorance of the phrase's origin prevents them from understanding why they get called racist for using it. To see why "all lives matter" can sound harmless, but still has racist undertones, consider another word that has been similarly tainted. The word "black" is pretty innocuous; a person can have black hair, drive a black car, and wear a black tie, and nobody would consider the usage of the word racist. However, in its original meaning, the n-word was based on the Latin word niger, which simply meant "black." However, centuries of being used by slavers, white supremacists, KKK, Nazis, and other racist bigots has indelibly tainted the n-word so that it cannot be used in polite society. "All lives matter" is by no means as racist as the n-word, but consider the other context in which the phrase is used.

In general, "all lives matter" is used by people who see very little impact from racism (e.g., white people, rich people, etc.) while those who use "black lives matter," are impacted much more (e.g., black people, poor people, etc.). To me, this helps put the phrase into context and demonstrates why saying "all lives matter" is less about saying, "let's take care of everyone," and more about saying, "shut up about racism." It would be wonderful if everyone believed that all lives matter equally, but the fact that racism still exists demonstrates that they do not.

Similar Phrases

The slogan "black lives matter," wasn't just appropriated by white people to "all lives matter," but also to "blue lives matter" and "white lives matter." Those who use these phrases are inadvertently demonstrating that they understand how it is possible to identify a problem, like the dangers of being a police officer, without implying that police officers are more important than everyone else. You can also see a similar form of bigotry in how many of the same people demand to hear "merry Christmas" instead of "happy holidays." If they actually care about inclusiveness like they say, they should be arguing that "all holiday's matter."

Gallery

Links

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