Sunday, March 13, 2016

What's wrong with saying all lives matter?

Photo by Gerry Lauzon

As a community, we're still waiting to hear from the Port Hope Police Association about their 'Blue Lives Matter' t-shirt campaign. If you don't know about it, click here to learn more.

While we wait, I thought I'd try to round up some answers to a question that's been asked a lot over the past few days: don't ALL lives matter?

The statement “black lives matter” is not an anti-white proposition. Contained within the statement is an unspoken but implied “too,” as in “black lives matter, too,” which suggests that the statement is one of inclusion rather than exclusion.
The lives of all human beings matter. That's a universal ideal. BlackLivesMatter was founded and is lead by three inspiring Black women — Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrice Cullers— out of a desire to draw attention to the specific way Black lives in America are systemically undervalued. They've written about the movement's Herstory on the BLM website and about their experience of watching the language of their movement be changed and coopted.
We’re not saying Black lives are more important than other lives, or that other lives are not criminalized and oppressed in various ways.  We remain in active solidarity with all oppressed people who are fighting for their liberation and we know that our destinies are intertwined.
And, to keep it real–it is appropriate and necessary to have strategy and action centered around Blackness without other non-Black communities of color, or White folks for that matter, needing to find a place and a way to center themselves within it.
Elsewhere I've read a few versions of the "dinner plate" analogy around the web, but this version from GeekAesthete on Reddit is winningly straightforward. 

A friend shared this terrific Storify feed, which gets right to the root of things from a White author's perspective.
I particularly identified with the last paragraph, where the author (appropriately @the_author_ on Twitter) talks about how relatively little backlash she's had compared to Black authors who address the same issues:
I think it's important to keep in mind how white privilege gives me a larger and safer opportunity to have this conversation without being excessively harassed - both highlighting the exact racism I'm discussing and the importance of having white people speak to one another when and how we can. 
I know that's the case for myself and many of the other women who've teamed up with me on this project, and I recognize that privilege.

I'm grateful to all who have asked tough questions, all who have shown openness, all who are asking questions. Please, everyone, keep sending and sharing your articles and stories (including to me). This process comes with growing pains and discomfort for many in our community and I want to acknowledge that. I believe we're working, together, toward a better community, a better Port Hope, a better Northumberland.

The way there from here is through dialogue, through education, through openness, and there's been a lot of that going on for the past few days. I know many of us look forward to welcoming the Port Hope Police Association into the conversation, to listen to what they have to say on these matters and to ask them our questions. In the meantime, we wait.

If you haven't yet, please consider signing our petition requesting the Port Hope Police Association stop the sale of t-shirts bearing the slogan "Blue Lives Matter," and issue an apology acknowledging this error. 


808 said...

funny how #blacklivesmatter means "black lives matter TOO" but #whitelivesmatter or #bluelivesmatter or whatever colour does not mean "Too" or is offensive or is racist or is ignorant. And No I'm not white or a cop and I am a visible minority so you can keep your "white privilege" comments.

megsheff said...

The lives of White people and police officers have never been undervalued by our society. The message of #BlackLivesMatter is that they do so DESPITE very real situations in the current American Black experience which would make it seem otherwise.

The fact is, #BlackLivesMatter was founded by queer, female writers & thinkers and when their words are coopted, when the word "Black" is erased and another is inserted, it is an act of silencing these women's work, and their description of the specific challenges faced by Black Americans.

When we cross out the word "Black" and replace it with "blue," it's effectively saying (even inadvertently) "Black lives don't matter, blue lives do." (Though of course, all people's lives are valuable. I'm suggesting we choose different language to describe that, and leave these particular words to the movement in which they originated.) Which I do not believe is the message the Port Hope Police Association is trying to send with these t-shirts.

Tony Burns said...

Thank you for bringing this to the attention of so many people. Let's hope many come to realize that no one questions the intent of the campaign to acknowledge the problem of PTSD faced by many in public service. Police, fire fighters, EMS workers and more. It's not the intent but the execution that is the issue.

Chris Abbott said...

Pretty lofty words for a little girl from no where Cobourg which has no diversity and considering your life experience probably includes next to no direct interaction with the community you're speaking on behalf of. I wonder how you'd feel towards police officers who put their lives on the line every single day- you couldn't survive a day in that reality. You wouldn't survive one minute in an inner city neighbourhood, wouldn't understand. You yourself demonstrate your ignorance and 'privilege' by talking about a topic you would know nothing about. Just another entitled white kid taking up a cause without having an open, honest dialogue. P.S. Get a job!

Kierkegaard said...

Excuse me? I happen to have a Canadian Police Officer in my family, and i take issue with your blanket claim that the lives of our police have never been undervalued? In fact the lives of Police have been increasingly devalued in the last two decades. What about their decades long fight for support on PTSD. We ask Police to stand between us and the worst of humanity, but don't want to recognize the harm it causes to our Officers. What about our Police losing the right to speak to a lawyer when under investigation for an incident? What about our Police losing their right against self incrimination, when under investigation?

Our Police have chosen to put themselves in harm's way physically, to protect the rest of us. But we are failing to protect them and their families from psychological harm, and from criminal and civil liability.

Frankly, black lives matter is an American movement based on a struggle that some black Americans have faced. A Canadian making the comment the Blue Lives Matter (too?) is neither offensive, nor oppressive.

I'd prefer to see All lives matter, but Blue Lives Matter is a legitimate statement, in support of a Canadian group that is facing a systematic attack on the basic Charter rights of its members.

808 said...

Can tell you've never been to any of these areas in the states and can't put yourself in some of those officers shoes. So if queers,women and thinkers came up with #bluelivesmatter then it'd be ok? Lol ya makes no sense right? By saying black lives matter its inadvertently saying other lives font matter. All us other minorities that experience this. The white folks that have been shot by police in the same manner. "Oh they're life don't matter" is the message your article expresses. The FTP mentality much like the #blacklivesmatter movement