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The Matter with "All Lives Matter"

Of all the criticisms of the "black lives matter" movement, the most enduring is that the group should not focus on black lives but instead say, "all lives matter." On the surface it sounds like a more inclusive phrase, so why has this suggestion been met with resistance?

One Redditor offered a clear analogy explaining why "black lives matter" is the more accurate phrase.

Imagine that you're sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don't get any. So you say "I should get my fair share." And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, "everyone should get their fair share." Now, that's a wonderful sentiment -- indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad's smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn't solve the problem that you still haven't gotten any!

If we don't recognize the implicit "too" at the end of "I should get my fair share," we won't understand the complaint. Likewise, if we miss the implicit "too" following "black lives matter," we may not understand what it represents.

In an ideal world, we could all say "all lives matter" and truly mean it. In the real world it doesn't work that way. "All lives matter" can be used to ignore systemic racism and give cover to those who benefit from the status quo. It can mask a refusal to acknowledge others as equals.

Because if we can't honestly say each of the following…

Black lives matter
Police lives matter
Gay lives matter
Muslim lives matter
Veteran lives matter
Immigrant lives matter
Trans lives matter

…and more, then we can't honestly say all lives matter. And that's why we should say "black lives matter" and "police lives matter" and all the rest. Not in order to label people who are different from us, but to acknowledge their humanness, to acknowledge that they matter.

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