I’m going to get political here. Well, more political than normal anyway.
I identify as white. I look white, with pale skin so light that I have joked I almost glitter in the sun like a Twilight vampire. I enjoy the privileges my skin colour has afforded me. I am most definitely not completely Caucasian, as evidenced by my mother’s side of the family.
I have friends of various skin colours and ethnicities, and noticed how people treat them compared to how I am treated. My younger sister takes after our mother’s side of the family and has been teased about it. Our eldest cousin got into his first fistfight after someone called my beautiful sister a racially derogatory name when we were children. She’s been accosted while walking with boyfriends, demanding to know why they were together. These are just the situations I know about, I’m sure there are others.
I’ve never had anyone demand to know why I was with anyone, and growing up the worst name I was ever called was “carrot top”, which never made sense to me as carrot tops are green. When I’ve been pulled over by the cops, I know it’s because I’ve done some dumbass move and they saw it. The violence against POC, which has always been there, is suddenly very front and centre for everyone. The media is reporting it far more than they ever have before, and activists and their allies have started hashtag campaigns #blacklivesmatter and #brownlivesmatter.
Here is where I get political. In response to these hashtags, someone came up with Alllivesmatter, apparently feeling that saying black lives matter means that white or non POC lives matter less. People posting Alllivesmatter are missing the freaking point. Of course all lives matter, but for a VERY long time, some lives have matter more than others, and some lives matter very little at all, depending on the person you are talking to.
A little black/brown child is abducted. No waves are made. The parents go to the police, the reports are filed, but for the most part the media ignores it. It’s assumed the child ran away/got involved in gangs/or somehow was complicit in their disappearance. A little white child goes missing, the parents go to the police, there is national press coverage, press conferences and manhunts. The white child is assumed to be involuntarily held, even though the circumstances are very similar.
A First Nation (American Indian) man is beaten to death in an alleyway. It’s assumed he must have been drunk and it was alcohol related. A white man is beaten to death and the news outlets urge the witnesses to come forward.
What I’ve tried to outline in these two hypothetical situations is that for many people, white lives matter more than black or brown lives. When someone posts Alllivesmatter instead of #blacklivesmatter, they are suppressing the message that black and POC lives matter and superimposing the view that white lives matter too. The fact that white lives matter has never been in discussion. Saying that black lives matter, that First Nation lives matter, that any non-white POC lives matter, is what activists and allies are trying to have heard, screaming to have heard, over the noise.
I’m not going to get into colonization, since more educated people then I have written far more eloquent statements and articles on the subject. I am saying that anyone using Alllivesmatter instead of #blacklivesmatter when reporting or posting about black or POC lives needs to have their white privilege checked. It’s not about you, it’s about others, trying to be heard over the noise we make to drown them out.