Rebuttal to The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter’
07/25/2016 05:57 pm ET | Updated Jul 28, 2016
This is a review of an article written originally by John Halstead Editor-at-Large at HumanisticPaganism.com and editor of Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. The author's words remain intact (black font) and my rebuttal comments are highlighted with a red font.
Why “Black” Makes Us Uncomfortable
Dear fellow white people, let’s have an honest talk about why we say “All Lives Matter.” First of all, notice that no one was saying “All Lives Matter” before people started saying “Black Lives Matter.” So “All Lives Matter” is a response to “Black Lives Matter.” Apparently, something about the statement “Black Lives Matter” makes us uncomfortable. Why is that?
Now some white people might say that singling out Black people’s lives as mattering somehow means that white lives don’t matter. Of course, that’s silly. If you went to a Breast Cancer Awareness event, you wouldn’t think that they were saying that other types of cancer don’t matter. And you’d be shocked if someone showed up with a sign saying “Colon Cancer Matters” or chanting “All Cancer Patients Matter.” So clearly, something else is prompting people to say “All Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter.”
Many of the people saying “All Lives Matter” also are fond of saying “Blue Lives Matter.” If you find that the statement “Black Lives Matter” bothers you, but not “Blue Lives Matter,” then the operative word is “Black”. That should tell us something. There’s something deeply discomfiting about the word “Black.” I think it’s because it reminds us of our whiteness and challenges our notion that race doesn’t matter.
ERASERace: What if the real answer is that some people have a problem with color period. What if some people want to live their lives as people who see people and not people who see a particular color of people? Blue Lives does not refer to any particular color of people but a group of people who can be any color. Why is it a problem for people who want to see all people as the humans that they are.
The Problem With “Colorblindness”
If you’re like me, growing up, the word “Black” was always spoken of in whispers in your family. It was like we were saying something taboo. Why was that? Because it was taboo. We might feel more comfortable saying “African-American,” but not “Black.” The reason is that we were raised to believe that “colorblindness” was the ideal for whites. We were taught that we shouldn’t “see color.” And saying the word “Black” was an acknowledgment of the fact that we did “see color.”
The problem with being “colorblind” — aside from the fact that we’re not really — is that it is really a white privilege to be able to ignore race. White people like me have the luxury of not paying attention to race — white or black. The reason is because whiteness is treated as the default in our society. Whiteness is not a problem for white people, because it blends into the cultural background.
Black people, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of being “colorblind.” They live in a culture which constantly reminds them of their Black-ness, which tells them in a million large and small ways that they are not as important as white people, that their lives actually do not matter as much as white lives. Which is why saying “Black Lives Matter” is so important.
ERASERace: This is part of the fallacy of the concept of race. “Whiteness” can only be treated with privilege if there is such a thing as “white” when identifying people. The problem is that we have such a group. We have decided to fight against the group when we should be fighting against the existence of such a group. The “white” author fails to mention that many “blacks” also have the privilege of not paying attention to race. Talk to Morgan Freeman.
Then there is the statement about a “culture which constantly reminds them of their Black-ness.” Why is that? It is because we have a culture of color. Cultures can change because a culture is based on a group’s assumptions about how things should be. We must do away with a culture of color. This is the point that ERASERace makes.
In order to see things differently (outside of color), we must do away with the identity by colors. I am not a “black” man. I am a man. My skin is brown but that is a terrible way to group me with others. What will we have next? Groupings by eye color? Why isn’t that just as valid as skin color?
“Black Lives [Do Not] Matter”
“All Lives Matter” is a problem because it refocuses the issue away from systemic racism and Black lives. It distracts and diminishes the message that Black lives matter or that they should matter more than they do. “All Lives Matter” is really code for “White Lives Matter,” because when white people think about “all lives,” we automatically think about “all white lives.”
We need to say “Black Lives Matter,” because we’re not living it. No one is questioning whether white lives matter or whether police lives matter. But the question of whether Black lives really matter is an open question in this country. Our institutions act like Black lives do not matter. The police act like Black lives do not matter when they shoot unarmed Black people with their arms in the air and when Blacks are shot at two and a half times the rate of whites, even when whites are armed. The judicial system acts like Black lives don’t matter when Blacks are given more severe sentences than whites who commit the same crimes and are turned into chattel in a for-profit prison-industrial complex.
And white people act like Black lives do not matter when we fail to raise the appropriate level of outrage at unjustified killings of Blacks or when we respond with platitudes like “All Lives Matter.”
But we still say it. We say it because “All Lives Matter” lets us get back to feeling comfortable. “Black Lives Matter” makes us uncomfortable. Why? Because it reminds us that race exists. WOW!!!! It reminds us that our experience as white people is very different from the experience of Black people in this country. It reminds us that racism is alive and well in the United States of America.
ERASERace: Of course the author of this piece is “white” but can he really speak for all “white” people who when they say, “All Lives Matter” are reallying saying “All White Lives Matter?” Here we have another manifestation of the problem that exists when we stratify or group by color. He purports to speak for all people of his same skin color. We know that is not possible but we accept it because his color matters. It really doesn’t and shouldn’t.
The next thing he talks about are the disparate incarceration and unarmed shooting rates of one group over another. Once again, racial statistics keep us mired in color. Instead of us fighting the problem of why anyone is incarcerated unjustly, we fight it in colors, a distractor. Do we want justice or do we want justice with a color?
The assumption that the author makes is simply ridiculous to say that there is not outrage amongst all people when someone is unjustly killed by police. He seems to show some sense of regret about his racial past that he now projects on all people of “his color.”
This was the pivotal statement in the entire writing: “Black Lives Matter” makes us uncomfortable. Why? Because it reminds us that race exists.(and the earth is flat) If only he could sit back and think about what he said and read that statement over and over again. "BLM reminds us that race exists." That is the problem!!! Race only exists because we give it life. If it is our desire to continue to be divided as a country based on the varying colors of our skin, then we can continue to remind ourselves that this particular difference matters. However, if we want to live with each other as people who desire to know each other as people, then we can move past the fallacy that is race.
The New Face of Racism
Now, I just said the “R” word, so you’re probably feeling defensive at this point. You’re instinctively thinking to yourself that you are not a racist. You may be thinking that you have Black friends or that you don’t use the N-word or that you would never consciously discriminate against a Black person. But most racism today is more subtle than that. Sure, there is a lot of overt racism that still goes on. The KKK is still active and some white people do still say the N-word. But overt racism is really culturally unacceptable any more among whites today. The racism that we need to face today is much more insidious than white hoods and racial slurs. It is the racism of well-meaning people who are not consciously or intentionally racist.
The racism that we need to face is the racism of average white middle-class Americans who would never think of saying the N-word and would vociferously condemn the KKK, but nevertheless unwittingly participate in institutionalized racism. We most often participate in racism by omission, rather than commission. We participate in racism when we fail to see it where it exists. We participate in racism when we continue to act like race is a problem that only Black people have. We participate in racism when we seek comfortable responses like “All Lives Matter.”
ERASERace: Given that the author cannot identify real “racism” occurring, he goes to his next tactic of saying, “whites commit it by omission.” Simply failing to call someone a racist puts you in denial and makes you a racist yourself. Stating that “All Lives Matter” is participating in racism. Seems that even if you are not a racist, you can participate in it. This is really absurd.
What We Can Do: Embrace the Discomfort
We white people need to embrace our discomfort. Here are some things we can do:
1. Recognize that we are not “colorblind.”
We can start by recognizing that we all have an “implicit bias” toward Blacks. Think you don’t have it? Consider how we mentally congratulate ourselves when we treat the random Black person the same way we treat white people. Here’s a tip, if you give yourself brownie points for treating Black people like you do white people, you’re not really treating Black people like white people.
Still don’t think you have unconscious bias, go to the Harvard implicit bias testing website and take the tests on race and skin-tone. Even white anti-racism activists like me have these biases. And they come out in all kinds of subtle ways, as well as not so subtle ways.
ERASERace: Here he is right. No one in our “color-washed” society is color blind. We cover everything in race and that is the problem. If that bias test is valid, it will find biases from all angles of all people. That is not shocking and only proves the point about how we view race as religion not to be challenged. The concept is flawed and it should not exist.
2. Work against unconscious bias by spending time with Black people in Black spaces.
Next, go out of your way to spend time with Black people in Black community settings. Many of us live segregated lives in which we have little to no interaction with Black people. Let’s face it, Black people make us white people uncomfortable. It’s because we’ve been socialized by a racist system to fear Black people.
Even if you feel comfortable around individual Black people, you most likely do not feel comfortable in a room full of Black people. You might have Black friends, but you probably socialize with them in white spaces. Have you ever been to a Black space and felt uncomfortable? Maybe you felt like no one wanted you there. Welcome to the everyday experience of Black people in white culture.
And when you go to a Black space, go to listen rather than lead. Learn to follow. Leading is a white privilege. Let go of it for a while and learn from those whose experience you will never have. Listen to Black people, and if what they are saying or how they are saying it makes you uncomfortable, so much the better.
ERASERace: The author could not be more wrong on this point. The thing that race has quite successfully done is kept us all segregated so that we all feel comfortable. There are tons of “black” people who live “black” lives never entering the social setting of “whites.” Heard of HBCU’s? Blacks as well as whites need to meet other people. We have to get away from the demonization of one group of people over the other. That’s how we got into this mess in the first place.
3. Talk to white people about institutional racism and say “Black Lives Matter.”
It’s no good sitting around feeling guilty about white privilege. We need to do something about it. One thing we can do is to use our white privilege to dismantle it.
One white privilege we have is that other white people listen to us. We can go into white spaces and talk to white people about implicit bias and institutional racism. We can unapologetically proclaim that “Black Lives Matter.”
After the Orlando shooting, I went to an interfaith vigil in my small conservative town. Almost no one among the speakers said the words “queer,” “gay,” or “lesbian.” This was probably unconscious, but it revealed a lingering, but deepseated discomfort among heterosexuals with gayness and queerness, a discomfort that the popular use of the acronym “LGBT” obscures. Similarly, we whites are uncomfortable with Black-ness. We don’t even like to say the word. It feels wrong in our mouths. We hide it by using code words like “inner city” or “urban,” terms which allow us to hide from our unconscious racism. We need to say “Black Lives Matter” because we need to overcome our discomfort with Blacks and face up to our unconscious bias.
ERASERace: Institutional racism if it were present would immediately be replaced by another -ism if we fail to relate to each other as human beings made in the image of God. Once again he speaks from his view that whites are uncomfortable with “black-ness.” If that is his personal experience, he should leave it there. Most of the “whites” I have encountered in my life are not uncomfortable with me. Oh yea, he would say that I’m not acting in my “blackness.” Uhhmm, so who is stereotyping now? This guy has “race” issues and of course most of our country does. His last line above, re-translated in my language says, “and oh by the way, in case you do not think you have bias against blacks, it is because you are unconscious of it;" the old, absence-is-proof-that-it-exists theory.
Join the Second Civil Rights Movement
Dear fellow white people, we are in the middle of a second Civil Rights Movement. Most of us white people idealize Martin Luther King, Jr. and we like to think that we would have been on his side of things during the Civil Rights era. But the fact is that the majority of the American public did not support the Civil Rights movement while it was happening and only came to see King as a hero after he was killed.
The Civil Rights movement was unpopular among most whites when it was happening. It was unpopular because it made white people deeply uncomfortable. Today, the Black Lives Matter movement makes us uncomfortable, too. In forty years we will look back on this second Civil Rights movement and have to ask ourselves whether we were on the right side of history. If we want to be on the right side of history this time, we have to make ourselves uncomfortable. There is no comfortable way to change. And the change can start with saying this simple but powerful phrase: Black Lives Matter.
ERASERace: In forty years we will look back and wonder how we could have ever believed in this crazy concept of race. We will question how we grouped people based on their skin color. The second civil rights movement will be when we decide that we are all human and we care about each other because of that fact. The second civil rights movement won’t have color attached to it and we will be able to live like “All Lives Matter” and we won’t even have to say it. ERASERace and I’m out!!!!