Understanding the problem with #AllLivesMatter

I understand that all lives matter, of course they do, but there's more wrong with the seemingly well-meaning "#AllLivesMatter" stance than may be apparent.

After the media, or at least social media, began to promote awareness of cases like Michael Brown's - the innocent black teenager from Ferguson who was shot and killed by American policeman Darren Wilson in August 2014 - there came a rise in the use of the hashtag "#BlackLivesMatter". In response to this, there was also a rise in the use of "#AllLivesMatter".

It may seem perfectly innocent - after all, we're aiming for equality, are we not? - but it's actually a problem.

There's a concept called being "colour blind", which essentially means to claim to not "see" race; there are also variants for not "seeing" gender, sexuality, religion etc., all meaning the same thing. It's a well-meaning term, saying that you refuse to discriminate or treat people differently for their race, but it has serious undertones.

By treating people in a way which ignores any problems they face as a result of their skin colour, you also ignore that fact that these problems exist, and ignorance is the last thing that's needed. The fact that racism exists in the workplace and in the media, let alone on the streets, as much as ever is exactly why we need to acknowledge that people of colour are discriminated against - so we can do something about it and help stop it.

The same rule of thumb applies to the "All Lives Matter" attitude. Of course all lives matter, but that isn't the point. Put simply, there is a lot more danger on the streets, particularly in America, for a person of colour than for their white demographic equivalent.

Even in England, the police have been found to be institutionally racist. A 2010 report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that black people were six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people. The police are also allowed to do this without suspicion of a crime being committed. Under these circumstances, ERHC figures from 2010-11 show black people are eleven times more likely to be stopped and searched in London than white people. In the West Midlands, this becomes twenty eight times more likely.

These figures may not result in any loss of life, but they're a shocking indicator of attitudes. By taking the "All Lives Matter" stance, you are ignoring the fact that people of colour face this problem and are only helping to mask the fact that it occurs. By using that slogan, you are making an issue that is solely aimed at protecting the lives of black people, about white people, who do not need the protection in the same way.

Black Lives Matter, and it is black lives that are in danger for no reason other than the colour of their skin and the prejudice it brings out in the media and institutions. We need to protect these lives, and that can't be done by sidelining the issue.


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