Of course, every life is significant — uniquely created by God and irreplaceable — and while I do believe every life matters, I don’t believe in #AllLivesMatter. I don’t believe in it because it is a cop-out, an attempt to silence voices that make many of us uncomfortable. It is a thinly veiled attempt to dodge an issue America has been ducking since its founding.
#AllLivesMatter is not a rebuttal to the #BlackLivesMatter movement; it is a casual dismissal. It continues to squelch a point of view that has gone largely unheard for centuries. #AllLivesMatter doesn’t just communicate this perspective to be incorrect; it dismisses #BlackLivesMatter as entirely invalid.
The problem with #AllLivesMatter is that all lives aren’t disproportionately subject to the kind of harassment that is now making the news on an almost daily basis. All lives aren’t dying in the streets on the wrong end of police interactions in disproportionate numbers. We’re not all being pulled over nearly every single night in our own neighborhoods because we don’t seem to “belong there.” All lives don’t elicit a Pavlovian fear response simply because they belong to a particular race, gender or age profile. These things are happening, not exclusively, but disproportionately to Black lives — specifically young male Black lives. Trying to dismiss this uncomfortable reality with an inclusive-sounding hashtag like #AllLivesMatter only exacerbates the problem.
In Things that Make White People Uncomfortable, Michael Bennett pushes uncomfortably on the painful root under the decaying tooth of racial tensions in America. “The problem,” Bennett points out, “is a system that inflicts inadequate schools, lack of clean water, and lack of jobs on the Black community.”
“The median for white households in that neighborhood was $247,000, while the median for a Black family was $8.”
Bennett is right. Black Americans are two-and-a-half times more likely than whites to be shot by police and twice as likely to be unarmed when shot. And lest we think this is simply a criminal justice problem, a recent study measured the household wealth (not income) of families in a specific neighborhood in the Boston Metro area. The median for white households in that neighborhood was $247,000, while the median for a Black family was $8. Yes, you read that right, that’s an eight with no zeroes. And the moment one of these families lifts themselves out of poverty and moves into a neighborhood with better schools for their kids, they’re often immediately subjected to the prying eyes and the musings of neighbors wondering if they really “belong here.”
#AllLivesMatter doesn’t attempt to refute this reality; it refuses to consider it. In America today, the young Black man is still the one who has been pulled over too many times and hassled on his own property. He is still the one who has heard too much from teachers and resource officers when all he was trying to do was simply stay in school like his mom wanted. He’s watched the worst-case scenario play out on the news dozens of times in recent years, and it is burned into his mind that the dead body almost always looks like his.
When we insist that #AllLivesMatter, we depreciate his pain and discount his frustration. When we silence his voice, we bring him one step closer to being the next #BlackLivesMatter story on the nightly news. On the surface, #AllLivesMatter may make us feel like we’re offering dignity and worth to all, but in reality, we are robbing it from some.
Ultimately, as Christians, when we insist on #AllLivesMatter, we are refusing to recognize that this kind of system will not be acceptable in the coming kingdom; therefore, it is not acceptable here and now. We refuse to consider that racial reconciliation is a non-negotiable piece of the gospel message.
Make no mistake about it; there is no king without God’s multi-racial kingdom. Finding ourselves on the wrong side of this hashtag battle is actively warring against God’s redemptive plan to bring reconciliation to every nation, language and ethnicity in Christ.