Following the death of Trayvon Martin, three self-identified Black queer women created #BlackLivesMatter. Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi gave birth a social media call to action, where people from all demographics and walks of life hone in on the obvious truth that the criminalization of Blackness is entertained as just and acceptable.
Alicia Garza penned “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.” In it, she poignantly showcases how the labor of Black LGBTQ women has been shamelessly hijacked by others who promote various adaptations and recreations of the necessary hashtag. Garza details how a number of organizations curtailed the herstory behind #BlackLivesMatter, and instead used some form of the expression without giving credit.
“Straight men, unintentionally or intentionally, have taken the work of queer Black women and erased our contributions. Perhaps if we were the charismatic Black men many are rallying around these days, it would have been a different story, but being Black queer women in this society (and apparently within these movements) tends to equal invisibility and non-relevancy.”
Perhaps the most infuriating adaptation is #AllLivesMatter, a whitewashed faux sentiment that co-opts the crux of this growing racial justice movement. I’d imagine that when people tweet and post using #AllLivesMatter, they’re trying to project an understanding that everyone should be treated with decency and respect.
#AllLivesMatter is a capture of colorblindness that goes against the purpose of #BlackLivesMatter. As Black Americans in the racial justice struggle and promoters of the roots embedded in #BlackLivesMatter, we already know and agree that all lives matter. But we also know that injustices stemming from police brutality and the conglomerate criminal justice system, does not marginalize against all lives … but Black lives, almost exclusively.
Every 28 hours, a Black person is killed by police or vigilantes. Black people are trapped in prisons at alarming rates. Black people are less likely to graduate from college, but are more likely to graduate with over $25,000 in student loan debt. Black people are more likely to suffer from HIV, diabetes, and other serious health issues. The socioeconomic ills are widespread and numerous in the Black community.
And despite the hardships that we face, we recognize that our ills are not happenstance or coincidence. They’re the product of elaborate designs instituted by white supremacy and patriarchy. Our hardships stem from institutional racism—the policies and practices that purposely disadvantage Black communities.
When we say #BlackLivesMatter, we are speaking about the unique hardships that the Black community faces. We are speaking directly about a heritage that remains intact despite racist violence directed at us. To say #AllLivesMatter is an affront to Black heritage, people, and culture and does nothing but take away from the potent truth that the Black existence deserves ample recognition.
Yes, all lives matter in ideology. But all lives don’t matter in practice. Should society and history tell us, Black lives don’t matter. When the murder of an unarmed teenager goes unpunished, and is further justified, all lives don’t matter. When a white man shoots up a movie theater, kills 12 people, terrorizes a nation, and is still alive … all lives don’t matter.
#AllLivesMatter is a cheap attempt to neutralize the fact that certain injustices and brutality are experienced by those with darkened skin. Please do not reshape the narrative in attempt to remain colorblind.
Suggested Reading: Please Stop Telling Me That All Lives Matter — Julia Craven Huffington Post.