by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
Recently, a Black Lives Matter apologist wrote an article and asked: What’s wrong with the slogan “All Lives Matter.” It explained three problems.
1). The slogan was a weaponized phrase designed to silence the oppressed.
2). The slogan made marginalized communities question their reality.
3). The slogan isn’t logical. All lives can’t matter if Black lives don’t.
Then I saw a headline that said: Black Lives Matter leaders say “All Lives Matter” label misses the point.
It’s hard to dismiss the above sentiments, especially since the slogan “All Lives Matter” has been adopted by the right in the era of Trump. Now that Black Lives Matter has gained acceptance in corporate America, they have an incentive to kill off the rival slogan that branded them as non-inclusive.
But historical accuracy matters.
“All Lives Matter” may have morphed into a chant that missed the point, but Black Lives Matter completely missed the point from the beginning.
When Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008, she stated she planned to incorporate her mother’s story into her campaign. Her mother, Dorothy Rodham, was abandoned as a child and sent to live with abusive grandparents. At 14, during the great depression, she left her grandparents and found work as a cook, housekeeper, and nanny. Clinton stated, through the kindness of her mother’s employer and teachers her mother was able to overcome the obstacles of her childhood.
Clinton’s mother died in 2011.
In April 2015, Clinton announced her second bid for the presidency. Months later, Clinton made a campaign stop at a historical Black church in Florissant, Mo. This location was less than five miles away from Ferguson. Ferguson gained national attention in the previous year when protests and riots erupted because a White police officer shot and killed an unarmed Black teenager. Black Lives Matter gained national exposure and established itself as a movement during this time. At the historical Black church, Clinton spoke about racism, access to education, repairing the community, and lessons she learned from her mother’s life. Clinton said, “I asked her, ‘What kept you going?’ Her answer was very simple. Kindness along the way from someone who believed she mattered. All lives matter.”
Now, Clinton made this comment in a church. She was appealing to the higher religious principle that we’re all children of God. But Black Lives Matter activists took offense and accused Clinton of trying to dilute the “Black Lives Matter” slogan. Black political strategist Donna Brazile told the Black Lives Matter activists, “Clinton was telling a story about her mother, she also said, ‘swe can stand up together and say ‘yes, Black Lives Matter’, Stop Hating!” It was the Black Lives Matter activists that missed the higher point. Throughout that Democratic primary Black Lives Matter activists rushed onto stages and interrupted speeches made by Democratic candidates by shouting “Black Lives Matter,” and, in response to the intrusion, supporters of the candidates shouted back: All Lives Matter.
That was how the Black Lives Matter/All Lives Matter slogan battle was born, but last month the “All Lives Matter” retort was officially killed off by a contributor to the Washington Examiner, a conservative weekly, in an article called: How Republicans should be thinking about Black Lives Matter. The contributor wrote, “Initially, the pushback to saying “Black Lives Matter” was to profess “All Lives Matter,” a statement that seemed self-evidently praiseworthy and obvious. But “All Lives Matter” clearly rings hollow to those for whom “All men created equal” did not apply from the moment it was enshrined in our nation’s founding documents.
The right can’t resurrect the slogan after that critique, but it was Black Lives Matter who weaponized the phrase and armed their opponents by taking offense to a simple lesson a mother gave her child.