The Real Meaning of ‘Black Lives Matter’

When you think of the Black Lives Matter social justice movement, you probably picture one of two things: the protests against racist police brutality, or the “Blackout Tuesday” posts on Instagram. While the official hashtag began in 2012 as a response to the murder of Trayvon Martin, the core of the movement centers on resisting systemic racism, which can be traced back to the founding days of American history. From disenfranchisement in the 19th century, to Jim Crow laws in the 20th century, to police brutality in the 21st century, systems throughout U.S. History have continuously put black communities at a distinct disadvantage. The lasting effects of these racial limitations are still seen in modern society, through the creation of the “All Lives Matter” slogan, a racist rebuttal to the Black Lives Matter movement.

When people respond to this movement with the phrase “All Lives Matter” it is a misinterpretation of the Black Lives Matter movement itself. The term “Black Lives Matter” does not mean that black people are inherently more important than people of other races. Instead, it urges Americans to recognize that black people are significantly more devalued than other races in the U.S. The term “All Lives Matter” perpetuates the idea that all races are equally treated in the U.S., when that is simply not the case. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, was choked to death under the knee of Derek Chauvin, an American police officer, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Although Floyd was unarmed and wrongfully accused of using a counterfeit bill, he died without being arrested, saying the words, “I can’t breathe” seconds before his death. By contrast, in 2015, Dylan Roof, a white supremacist and neo-Nazi, shot and killed nine innocent black worshippers at a church service. Although armed, he was peacefully arrested by police officers. The difference in treatment the two men faced highlights the racial injustice that still exists in the American police system.

The phrase “All Lives Matter” exists purely to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement, and disregards the unfair treatment people face from the police because of their skin color. Imagine that there are four dogs, and one of them becomes severely ill. The natural reaction would be to send the sick dog to the hospital. However, if someone says that, “All dogs matter! Why don’t the other dogs go to the hospital as well?” their response would clearly be irrational and senseless. This analogy illustrates how the phrase “All Lives Matter” is an illogical response, and ultimately serves only to nullify and inhibit the Black Lives Matter movement.