All Lives Can’t Matter Until Black Lives Matter

A crowd manifesting in Wynwood on June 5. Jesse Fraga/PantherNOW

Alejandra Gonzalez/Guest Columnist

After the murder of George Floyd and other Black innocents, necessary conversations about the treatment of Black communities nationwide have proven to be extremely divisive. Discussions have become particularly tense over the last week or so as the protests continue. 

Being on social media for even a few moments will confirm an unyielding partition of stances concerning topics like looting and property damage, defunding police forces and privilege. Though these conversations are informed by entire histories that make them complex and intricate, there is one thing that should be certain and unanimous: Black lives matter. 

This is undoubtedly a true statement, so to argue against it at all would attest to racism so willfully ignorant of centuries-worth of proof that Black lives never mattered to White oppressors in power. 

Jesse Fraga/PantherNOW

Why, then, is the truth that “black lives matter” is so often met with the flimsy counter argument that all lives matter? In those mere three words lies the inherent denial of decades of racist, sexist and homophobic policy making marginalized lives seem like they matter less than White ones. 

Even recently, we’ve seen the quality of care given to minorities affected by COVID-19 pale in comparison to the quality of care given to White persons who have also fallen victim to the virus. Extremely lax regulations and safety measures taken against the virus have resulted in a death toll upwards of 100,000 in this country alone, supporting the notion that our system almost believes that no lives matter when the economy dwindles. 

And what do those arguing that all lives matter make of the immigrant families being held in detainment camps, under such crude conditions that have cost so many of them their lives? Do they not matter? Do only all American lives matter? Do only all White American lives matter?

We also continue to see these oppressive policies in our medical systems, with access to quality healthcare being significantly less available to minorities, particularly to Black families. We see them in the way education is funded less in Black neighborhoods, thus rendering the ideal of “equal opportunity for all” untrue. We especially see it in our prison system, which targets and punishes Black men more often and more harshly for the same crimes committed by white people. 

If Black lives are not granted the same safety, opportunity and value in the eyes of justice as others, then how can you say that all lives matter?

This has been evident even since the crack “epidemic” of the 1980’s, when Black individuals were charged with more severe sentences for selling less crack cocaine than White individuals were charged for selling nearly double the amount of pure cocaine. 

These systematic inequalities are rooted in an extremely complex and racist history, for which there are countless resources that can better detail these unfair realities than I will ever be able to as a White Latina.

Still, even if some may not yet understand every element of our oppressive system, we must understand the deception of the phrase “all lives matter.” This deception is proven simply in the way Black people are disproportionately victims of violent police brutality—and even murder—at the hands of law enforcement that often faces no real consequence for their heinous crimes. 

See, herein lies the “all lives matter” paradox. If to say “all lives matter” is to ignore that Black communities continue to be disproportionately hurt by the system, then no real change can ensue. If no real change can ensue as a result of this willful ignorance, then Black lives will continue to be negatively affected, made exponentially more difficult and even taken at the hand of systematic racism. 

If Black lives are not granted the same safety, opportunity and value in the eyes of justice as others, then how can you say that all lives matter? A more correct statement would be that all lives should matter, but they cannot all matter until Black lives also matter.

Alejandra Gonzalez is an FIU alumni who majored in English.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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