“The SPLC today released two reports documenting how President-elect Donald Trump’s own words have sparked hate incidents across the country and had a profoundly negative effect on the nation’s schools … In Ten Days After, the SPLC documents 867 bias-related incidents in the 10 days following the presidential election.”
In the wake of Donald Trump’s win of the Electoral College, hate crimes have been committed against blacks, against gays, against immigrants, against Muslims and Jews, against women … the list goes on and on.
Of course, hate crimes haven’t suddenly popped up just since November 9. They’ve been on the rise during the past eighteenish months during the campaigns. They’ve been in the news for the past several years, particularly since the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin. Hate crimes have been an issue of note for decades, eventually leading to The Hate Crimes Statistics Act, which was signed into law in 1990; The Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act, which was enacted in 1994; and The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was signed into law in 2009 by President Obama.
Sadly, hate crimes are nothing new. Sadly, hate crimes are unlikely to suddenly stop anytime soon. Sadly, some people seem to think that their lives are more important, more valuable, more valid than the lives of other people. Sadly, some people seem to think that not all lives matter.
That “lives matter” has become a thing is due much to the Black Lives Matter movement, which grew from the Trayvon Martin murder, when George Zimmerman was acquitted. Black Lives Matter is a response to the systemic racism in America, but it goes beyond a simple call to arms to affirm “the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”
From a loosely-knit group on social media to a powerful hashtag (#BlackLivesMatter), the movement has spread to chapters in more than thirty cities across the country—and around the world: Solidarity protests have been held in Britain, Canada, Germany, and The Netherlands. Indeed, the movement has become part of the national conversation—a necessary part of the conversation, a part of the conversation that for too long has gone overlooked by too many.
Not everyone has responded favorably to the Black Lives Matter movement. Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Sean Hannity are just a few on the right who have denounced it. Some have argued that the movement has damaged relations with police. Some have argued that the movement has caused a rift over Israel.
Despite such denunciations, the fact of the matter is that the Black Lives Matter movement matters. It has awakened people to the fact that racial injustice remains prevalent in America and abroad. It has forced us to think about the Civil Rights Movement, both where it has been and where it is going. And, it has prompted us to pay more attention to marginalized groups in our society.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been any backlash. In response to the growing popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement, many people have asked “Don’t all lives matter?” Indeed #AllLivesMatter has become a popular hashtag in response to #BlackLivesMatter.
To respond to someone saying “black lives matter” with “all lives matter” is missing the point. In America, no one is questioning the value of white lives. White people don’t have to walk down the street afraid that they might be stopped by police for looking suspicious. White parents don’t have to talk to their children about how to handle themselves in dealing with police officers.
These are realities that black people have to live with in America, and to dismiss the legitimate concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement by saying “all lives matter” is to spare one’s self of having to deal with the difficulties of reality in America, to hide behind a wall of words.
This is an important and valid point. As a white suburban gal who, frankly, has it pretty easy, there’s no way I can really understand what it’s like to deal day after day after day with the subtle and overt racism that sullies our world. I can sympathize, but I probably can’t really empathize. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care.
Nor does it mean, however, that in sympathizing for the Black Lives Matter movement that I therefore must eschew other concerns for other groups that are marginalized, discriminated against, ignored, silenced, bullied, or otherized. Because, to me, really, all lives do matter. I don’t want to feel like I have to rank lives in order to support all lives. I don’t want to feel like I’m necessarily showing disdain for one group if I show support for another. I don’t want to be accused of being racist/sexist/classist/ageist for voicing support for one group at any given time even though I also support other groups. I don’t want to feel like I have to decide whose lives matter.
Black lives matter.
Blue lives matter.
Brown lives matter.
White lives matter.
White-collar lives matter.
Blue-collar lives matter.
Urban lives matter.
Suburban lives matter.
Rural lives matter.
Wealthy lives matter.
Poor lives matter.
Red-state lives matter.
Blue-state lives matter.
Liberal lives matter.
Conservative lives matter.
Progressive lives matter.
Adult lives matter.
Children’s lives matter.
Straight lives matter.
Gay lives matter.
Queer lives matter.
Muslim lives matter.
Jewish lives matter.
Christian lives matter.
Agnostic lives matter.
Men’s lives matter.
Women’s lives matter.
Old lives matter.
Young lives matter.
We could go on and on here. So, can I say that all lives matter without offending anyone? Can we concede that no life is worth more than another? Because all lives do matter.
If this election has shown us anything, it has proven that all sorts of groups of people, far and wide across our great nation, feel marginalized in one way or another. Rural voters feel marginalized by urban voters. Low-wage earners feel marginalized by high-wage earners. Blue-collar workers feel marginalized by white-collar workers. Conservatives feel marginalized by progressives.
So, can’t we all agree that all lives do matter? If we start there, can we then start trying to listen to each other? Can we start to at least try to hear what each other is saying? Can we try to sympathize with each other even if we can’t empathize? Can we look for common ground without drawing lines between each other? Can we admit that every group we’ve stereotyped or marginalized or otherized wants to be heard? That every group needs to be heard? That each of us needs to be heard?
Each of us matters.
Not one of us matters more or less than anyone else.
So let’s treat each other with respect no matter what life we lead. Let’s treat each other with compassion no matter what group we might belong to. Let’s try to understand each other no matter where we live or how we vote or what we believe or where we work.
The Black Lives Matter movement has reminded us that racism is a problem here. It has reminded us that we need to respect each other, that we need to treat each other with compassion, that we need to start understanding each other. This is so important. It always has been important and, now, in the wake of this tumultuous election, it seems perhaps even more important than ever before. At the very least, we should thank those who launched and have sustained the movement for waking us up to a reality that too many of us have pushed under the covers.
We need to treat each other fairly, equitably, honestly, respectfully, compassionately—regardless of race or gender or age or income or identity. We need to treat each other as we would like to be treated, à la the Golden Rule:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
At a time when hate crimes are on the rise, let’s make sure that each and every one of us knows how much we matter. Our diversity is what makes us great. America wouldn’t function without the contributions that each of us makes. None of us is better than another. We all matter.
I understand that responding to #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter can sound dismissive and facile. But perhaps if we respect our differences while searching for common ground we can, indeed, treat each other like each of us matters. At a time when so many people feel so vulnerable, this strikes me as more important than ever. And so I will do more to live and act and speak and behave in a way that makes it clear that all lives matter—black and blue and rich and poor and straight and gay … and everything in between.
Because, really, we are stronger together, and when we all feel stronger, when we all feel like we matter, well, then, it’s just that much easier to lift each other up.
Will you join me?