There’s been a lot of discussion about race recently due to recent events in Minneapolis and New York and the ensuing protests. And while on one side there’s been a significant outcry of support for black Americans as a result, I’ve also observed a resurgence of that old familiar dog whistle of a retort, All Lives Matter.
I’m a little nervous to post my thoughts on this subject. Emotions are running so high right now and the last thing I want to do is add to anyone’s stress or anger over the state of the country right now.
But as a half-Asian woman and mother of mixed race children, this issue is literally keeping me up at night. And I would be remiss if I didn’t share the bit of advice that’s been circling around in my head the past few days. It starts with a simple question.
What does this phrase mean exactly, All Lives Matter?
And is All Lives Matter an appropriate response to anyone who says Black Lives Matter? How do we decide which way to think about this when both sides feel so strongly that theirs is the right way to react? Sometimes, the easiest way to find the solution to a problem is to think about it through a child’s eyes.
In the interest of simplicity, let’s also take the issue of race out of this scenario entirely for a moment. Just imagine someone comes to you and simply says,
“I’m scared. I’m in pain. I need help.”
What do you say back to them? What is the kind and humane way to respond?
Ask a child what their reply to this appeal would be. Mine said:
“I’m sorry you’re in pain. I will protect you. How can I help?”
Now imagine instead of saying that, the response was like this instead:
“Everyone is in pain. Stop complaining about it. I won’t help you.”
What does that say about a person if they respond dismissively like that?
Are they kind or callous? Do they have empathy or are they selfish? Is that how you’d want someone to respond to you if you were in pain and needing help?
Even a child could probably tell you the obvious answer to that last question is no. Everyone wants someone to hear their struggle and offer to help.
To do otherwise is to make them feel like less than a person, an unimportant life.
When you think about the situation in these terms, simplified from a child’s perspective and boiled down to the very basics of human decency and morality, the decision seems pretty clear to me.
Is it appropriate to say All Live Matter in response to Black Lives Matter?
Yes, all lives do matter. Of course they do. And it is noble to want to solve the problems of every life on the planet, which is what one can assume it means to say All Lives Matter. But you can’t reach your destination without taking that first step forward. So here is a chance to take that first step towards helping to make sure all lives matter.
Help the one that’s in front of you asking for a hand right now.
When someone is voicing their pain and immediate need for help to change the situation that is causing them this pain and fear, the ethical way to answer is with love, with support, with assistance. To respond in any other way, I believe quite simply, reveals a self-centered world view and lack of empathy.
My eight-year-old understands this concept. What he doesn’t understand, however, is how some people who are older than him apparently still do not.
Please share this if it helps people see their perspective in a new light. Black Lives Matter today, tomorrow, and every day in the future.