• Zainab Khan

Emphasizing Equity: Key Differences of the Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter Movements

By: Zainab Khan


Our forefathers founded this country on the basis of equality: life, liberty, and justice for all. This claim is a lie. It has never been fully granted; it has consistently failed the black community.

On February 23rd, 2020, Gregory and Travis McMichael murdered Ahmaud Arbery while he was harmlessly jogging. The pair followed Arbery, who was completely innocent, for about five minutes as another man recorded before shooting Arbery dead. This unprovoked murder was dismissed by the District Attorney’s office as self-defense–“using deadly force to protect (one)self.” The sheer mishandling of this situation brings to light the horror and injustice that is faced by marginalized groups across the country. Only recently, after months of mismanaging and public outrage, were the three men involved in the hate crime arrested. This ruthlessness and blatant racism should have never taken place. Disturbing, heartless cases of outright murder and torture like these are why the Black Lives Matter movement has become necessary. Yet still, groups like the All Lives Matter movement are ignorant and disregarding of the systematic and historical oppression that is at play.

Black Lives Matter is a movement whose mission is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in the violence inflicted on Black communities.” The movement is a fight to show that in the face of constant existential fear, black lives need to be accounted for and defended. Black Lives Matter organizes global action programs and national protests, creates petitions, and raises awareness on the disheartening actions of racial bigotry and how to combat them. Through inhumanity and discrimination, Black Lives Matter does not stop fighting to legitimize change. These constant events of brutality perpetuate ideologies of white supremacy and racial power dynamics that Black Lives Matter is striving to eliminate.

This widespread white supremacy has led to a counter-protest: “All Lives Matter.” Though “All Lives Matter” is a perilous phrase that may seem to have the intent to bring people together, it tears our country and society apart. Supporters of the All Lives Matter movement live under a veil of ignorance to the true oppression and institutional racism at play. The rhetoric surrounding this movement only further emphasizes this notion. The phrase is not used when there is violence against black people; it’s used against “Black Lives Matter.” Dr. Mark Orbe, professor at Western Michigan University, debunks the seemingly indisputable claim that supporters of All Lives Matter may hold: “If a person doesn’t see race, then they cannot be racist.” In reality, it is color-blindness that fosters ignorance at a time when race must be put in the spotlight, as it is being used as justification to inhumanity. If proponents of All Lives Matter truly agreed with the idea that every life mattered, they would support the fight towards justice for black people. All Lives Matter is based on racist and disruptive ideologies, perpetuating pain, oppression, and privilege.

If we assume that the All Lives Matter movement is goodhearted and supportive of equality for all, as it initially sounds to be, it poses a social dilemma. A coordination trap is when two actors involved in a scenario act rationally in their self-interest, yet coordinate on a suboptimal outcome. The optimal outcome in our world would be to create a society that is treated fairly, and this is what must be coordinated. The Black Lives Matter movement acts in its own rationale, striving for well-deserved equity and policy implementation to create a change for black lives. The All Lives Matter group uses an ignorant basis of empty words–not actions–to bring an understanding that all lives should matter, not just black ones. The choices both actors have is to support one group over another, yet those who support All Lives Matter are living in an anti-intellectual bubble, blinded by ignorance and white privilege. They push themselves away from learning and accepting the truth around this race-centered issue. The issue of historical inequity is about race. All Lives Matter eliminates race, when in reality it is what needs to be focussed on in order for justice to be achieved.

The All Lives Matter movement fails to understand the necessity for equity and its reasoning. Equality alone cannot account for the structural and historical disadvantages at play for the black population. Equity, on the other hand, can account for this oppression and provide more to those who need it – in this case, the black population. If the All Lives Matter movement really wanted all lives to matter, then both groups would be better off contributing to the Black Lives Matter movement. This Pareto improvement would encourage society to strive for equity–not just equality. Both groups want “all lives” to matter, yet All Lives Matter disregards the importance of equity, failing to see the need for focus on the groups that truly need it. This causes widespread disregard and inequity, undermining reality and perpetuating the problem.

Regardless of this, many still exist in the anti-intellectualism of the All Lives Matter movement, for example, Donald Trump’s statement saying that “Black Lives Matter” is “divisive and inherently racist.” He is able to say that all lives matter in terms when it undermines the black population, yet is inconsistent with this phrase in his many public xenophobic, sexist, racist, and disrespectful comments. All Lives Matter is rooted in uneducated arguments, and it must be combated with an emphasized awareness from the Black Lives Matter campaign. All Lives Matter does not want social and political equity, they want to lessen the focus on the black population.

Many of the supporters of the All Lives Matter counter-protest live amongst the safety of privilege. They do not worry about getting shot on their afternoon run, lynched when approached by a cop, or being racially profiled on a daily basis. This privilege should be leveraged to bring justice to those who do not have it. Those who propose the All Lives Matter movement fail to use their privilege to help stand for necessary change against constant brutality.

Too many unnecessary deaths of black people occur every day. Those who support this seemingly benevolent All Lives Matter movement must learn and acknowledge the reality of our current social and political climate that systematically oppresses the black population. Though some may view All Lives Matter as a more broad scoped protest, rather than a counter-protest, it is actually this view that shifts focus away from the abuse and necessary justice for black people. A tweet by Arthur Chu puts this into perspective, explaining that saying “All Lives Matter” is equivalent to running through a cancer fundraiser yelling “all diseases matter, too.” The utter uselessness of this claim in this context completely undermines the issue at hand. The statement “Black Lives Matter” is asking for justice to be achieved for the disproportionately disadvantaged black population. It is necessary for us as a society to put extra value on black lives and to understand that in doing so, it is not devaluing the lives of others.

With numerous cases like Ahmaud Arbery’s, it is hard to see America as a place of freedom. It is one of institutionalized racism. It is a society that disregards racist injustices and racially stemmed murders that occur on a daily basis. If the All Lives Matter campaign really cared about all lives being equal, it would support added protections for black lives through policy, protest, and black power. We must use this ideology to bring awareness as to why Black Lives Matter is the movement we need to truly have life, liberty, and justice for all.

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