Distorting the meaning of the ‘black lives matter’ slogan

Seth Meyers looks at some of the reactions to the Dallas shootings. Note that the police in Dallas patrolling the demonstration prior to the shooting were not in riot gear but were dressed in shirt sleeves and even shorts, because that police department was one of the leaders in trying to foster better police-community relations.

He makes the important point that the phrase ‘black lives matter’ is being distorted by critics to imply that they are saying that ‘only black lives matter’. It is not necessary to add that white lives also matter because our entire society is built on the premise that they do, a point also made by Natasha Lennard in the context of those who argue in the wake of the police killings that we need a ‘blue lives matter’ slogan as well.


  1. rpjohnston says

    I see that claim a lot, that the people who object to “black lives matter” do so because they think it’s saying “only black lives matter”. Personally, though, I’ve never seen anyone who seems to think that; rather, they’re offended that for a moment, the conversation isn’t entirely about their WHITE lives. In other words, the objection is about sharing the life-mattering.

    Where are all the “all lives matter” policy proposals? Where are they at protests? If all lives matter, then they should be out there with the black folk protesting, as well as organizing their own protests, for the white lives, the hispanic lives, against police brutality in general.

    But “all lives matter” is only ever brought up explicitly to shut down the idea that “black lives matter”. Once that voice has been suppressed, “all lives matter” becomes silent. Because at that point it’s really “white lives matter” and everybody knows and respects that so there’s no need to proclaim it.

  2. cartomancer says

    We’ve had this with the term “feminism” for decades now. It’s absolutely nothing new.

    In fact, I’m quite surprised that the people who came up with Black Lives Matter didn’t foresee this willful misinterpretation and take steps to head it off. As soon as I first heard the slogan I thought “ouch, how long is it going to be before some frothing bigot pipes up with a rant about how this is discrimination”.

    I will admit that “Black Lives Matter” is punchy and memorable, in part because it is short and direct. “Black Lives Also Matter” would perhaps have less impact, even if it did head off the kinds of misinterpretations we are seeing people jump to left, right and centre. And it really shouldn’t be incumbent on protest groups and activist groups to take these things into account. Sadly, in the world we live in, it seems they don’t have a choice.

  3. machintelligence says

    The assassination of cops in Dallas: further evidence that no good deed ever goes unpunished.

  4. says

    A lot of the discussion would have been reduced if the name had been “Black Lives Matter Too” (though that doesn’t scan as well).

    On the other hand, the wingnuts would find something wrong with that, too.

  5. Mobius says

    Meyers puts in words what I have thought for some time…the critics of BLM interpret it to mean “ONLY Black Lives Matter” when clearly it was meant to be “Black Lives Matter TOO”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *