“Well, I mean, All Lives Matter...”
My daughter said this in rebuttal to seeing a Black Lives Matter sign on the church lawn of an all white church. I knew she did not get that statement from me, it must’ve been something she brought home from the lunch table or the playground at school…
“It’s true", I said, "All lives do matter. But to say that in response to Black Lives Matter is not only insulting to me and your dad but to every black relative whose DNA you carry with you today. Where the **** did you hear that? I know it wasn’t uttered by anyone in authority in this house.”
She was puzzled, her sister was shocked, and I was incensed. I wasn’t mad at her. I was mad at myself. I was once again failing my black child.
Raising kids in a white environment or a multicultural environment that “respects all cultures” can afford you the unfortunate luxury of losing yourself and your culture as you attempt to blend in harmony. Your culturally significant struggle is often ignored or unrecognized in the school’s attempt to whitewash a togetherness and reality, that in the real world, does not exist. I don’t care how colorblind you think you are, it does not exist. And if you do think it does exist, especially in our current polarized environment, keep reading...
I looked at my child through the rearview mirror. And this is almost all of what I said...
“Did all lives matter when the Constitution said that black people are 3/5 human?”
“How about when the 15th amendment came through for black men but not black women? You could not vote. Did all lives matter then?”
“Will all lives matter when you leave your safe school environment and you’re more likely to die at the hands of the police for something basic, than your white peers?”
“Listen. There are little black girls that look just like you whose teachers, neighbors, community leaders, and even family members see them as sexualized, difficult, ignorant, and unintelligent, social pariahs. Do you feel like that at school?”
“Are you aware of the school to prison pipeline?”
“Lucky you... Some kids are, even though they don’t know what it’s called, they know that prison is often what’s next after their inadequately funded schooling. You’re fortunate to live in an environment where who you are, how kind you are, how intelligent you are is appreciated and acknowledge. Your humanity is elevated. Not all black girls have that privilege. And it shouldn’t be a privilege!
Your father and I work hard, we kill ourselves so that you can partake in that privilege. It should not be a privilege... But don’t get it twisted. Where you go to school is a bubble. It’s not like this everywhere for people that look like you and to say “All Lives Matter” in response to someone acknowledging that Black Lives Matter, especially if that person is white, is an insult.
For a white person or a white church to acknowledge that Black Lives do indeed Matter means that they are stepping aside to acknowledge the humanity in black people that historically has been ignored by individuals and institutions. They’re saying that yes, all life is important but we do get that our black friends, neighbors, and family are experiencing a struggle that may in fact jeopardize their existence and we are not ok with that.
You cannot step in their way. You cannot dismiss that effort. And you cannot encourage any All Lives Matter BS when you know how much work it took to get you here in this car at this moment. How much rape and trafficking and forced domestic labor occurred to get you here? How much Jim Crow and legalized terrorism got you here? How much surviving and tears and disappointment got you here... by Black women and girls that look just. like. YOU. So yes, all lives matter, but until all black girls can confidently say this, without reservation... you will not utter those words again.”
The car fell silent. I was mad at myself because I had become too distracted by the daily grind to remind my kids of who they were.
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I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.