Modern Australian

Why is it so offensive to say 'all lives matter'?

  • Written by Karen Stollznow, Research fellow, Griffith University

This week acting Australian Prime Minister Michael McCormack uttered a controversial phrase.

Defending previous comments in which he compared the Capitol riots to the Black Lives Matter protests, he asserted,

All lives matter.

McCormack was widely condemned for his remarks, including by Indigenous Australian activists, Labor and the Greens.

His use of the phrase was reminiscent of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s failed attempt to have the Senate endorse a motion that “all lives matter” in 2019. As former Finance Minister Mathias Cormann noted at the time, “you have to consider things in their context”.

As a linguist, who has just published On The Offensive, a book about offensive language, “all lives matter” is a phrase that reveals prejudice.

So, where does the phrase “all lives matter” come from? And given it is of course true that all lives matter, why is the phrase so offensive in today’s context?

Black Lives Matter

“All lives matter” was born out of “Black Lives Matter”. This is a slogan and a social movement in response to racism and violence perpetuated against Black people, both historically and in the modern era.

Protester carrying a 'Black Lives Matter' flag Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack’s comments about Black Lives Matter have outraged his political opponents. Stuart Villanueva AP/AAP

This can be traced back to a tragic incident almost nine years ago. In February 2012, 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin was walking home in Florida, after buying Skittles at a convenience store.

Local resident George Zimmerman reported Martin to police as “suspicious”, then confronted the innocent young man and fatally shot him. Zimmerman claimed the act was in self-defence and was later acquitted.

After this, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter began to appear on social media, in support of Martin and in protest against social and systemic racism — that is, racism in society and through institutions. This grew into a movement, co-founded by three Black community organisers, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.

Concerns and anger about racism towards Black people was reinvigorated more recently after several high-profile, racially charged incidents in the US.

Read more: Black Lives Matter is a revolutionary peace movement

These include the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot while jogging in a south Georgia neighbourhood, and also the murder of George Floyd.

These tragic events inspired worldwide protests against institutional racism. In Australia, Black Lives Matter marches also called for justice for Indigenous people, including Aboriginal man David Dungay Jr, who died in custody in 2015. There have been more than 430 Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991.

‘All lives matter’

What does it mean to say “all lives matter”?

When the Black Lives Matter motto arose, some people interpreted the phrase as confrontational and divisive. They took it to exclude other races. The phrase “all lives matter” sprang up in response, ostensibly to argue all lives are equal because we are all human beings.

However, Black Lives Matter was not intended to mean that other lives do not matter. In a world where Black people are stigmatised, marginalised, and discriminated against, Black Lives Matter simply recognises Black lives matter, too.

Not a straightforward phrase

Responding to “Black Lives Matter” with “all lives matter” derails the specific conversation about racism against Black people. The phrase is seen to dismiss, ignore, or deny these problems — it shuts down this important discussion.

Read more: The backlash against Black Lives Matter is just more evidence of injustice

US President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and other US conservatives like Rudy Guiliani, have used the phrase to criticise the Black Lives Matter movement.

Through its use, “all lives matter” has also become associated with white supremacy, far-right nationalism and racism.

A racist dog whistle

Black Lives Matter is intended to promote the peaceful protest of racism against Black people, not only in the US, but worldwide. It also calls for immediate action against systemic and social racism.

Why is it so offensive to say 'all lives matter'? People around the world have marched in support of Black Lives Matter. Martin Meissner AP/AAP

When used by Black people, “Black Lives Matter” is a declaration that Black lives do indeed matter. It is a call for protection and recognition.

When said by allies — supportive people outside of the racial group — “Black Lives Matter” acknowledges that Black lives do indeed matter, and says we stand in solidarity with members of Black and indigenous communities both locally, and globally.

So, “all lives matter” can be understood as a racist dog whistle — a direct push-back against the Black Lives Matter movement. It is far from an innocent term celebrating the worth of all humanity.

Authors: Karen Stollznow, Research fellow, Griffith University

Read more https://theconversation.com/why-is-it-so-offensive-to-say-all-lives-matter-153188

NEWS

Engineers have built machines to scrub CO₂ from the air. But will it halt climate change?

ClimeworksOn Wednesday this week, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was measured at at 415 parts per million (ppm). The level is the highest in human history, and...

To publish or not to publish? The media's free-speech dilemmas in a world of division, violence and extremism

AAP/AP/ John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPxTerrorism, political extremism, Donald Trump, social media and the phenomenon of “cancel culture” are confronting journalists with a range of agonising free-speech dilemmas to which there are...

I've heard COVID is leading to medicine shortages. What can I do if my medicine is out of stock?

from www.shutterstock.comYou’ve just come from your monthly GP appointment with a new script for your ongoing medical condition. But your local pharmacy is out of stock of your usual medicine...

not everyone can access these spaces equally

Silas Baisch/UnsplashLast week, the McIver’s Ladies Baths in Sydney came under fire for their (since removed) policy stating “only transgender women who’ve undergone a gender reassignment surgery are allowed entry”...

Young Australians remain ill-equipped to participate in Australian democracy

Despite many young Australians having a deep interest in political issues, most teenagers have a limited understanding about their nation’s democratic system. Results from the 2019 National Assessment Program –...

Expect the new normal for NZ's temperature to get warmer

Flickr/Stephen Murphy, CC BY-NC-NDIt might be summer in New Zealand but we’re in for some wild weather this week with forecasts of heavy wind and rain, and a plunge in...

Everything You Need to Know about 5G Technology

Smartphone users today want faster data speeds, accompanied by more accessible services. 5G, the Next Generation of wireless networks claims to extend the same and much more. 5G allows users...

Curious Kids: how do scabs form?

ShutterstockHow do scabs form? — Talila, aged 8Great question, Talila! Our skin has many different jobs. One is to act as a barrier, protecting us from harmful things in the...

Men and women kill their children in roughly equal numbers, and we need to understand why

On average, one child is killed by a parent almost every fortnight in Australia.Last week, three children — Claire, 7, Anna, 5, and Matthew, 3 — were included in this...

patent rights, national self-interest and the wealth gap

www.shutterstock.comWe will not be able to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us until the world’s population is mostly immune through vaccination or previous exposure to the disease. A truly global...

After riots, Donald Trump leaves office with under 40% approval

AAP/EPA/ Yuri Gripas /poolAt 4am Thursday AEDT, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be inaugurated as president and vice president of the United States, replacing Donald Trump and Mike Pence...

when we frame illegal fishers as human and drug smugglers, everyone loses

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing costs economies up to US$50 billion globally each year, and makes up to one-fifth of the global catch. It’s a huge problem not only for...



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion













Popular articles from Modern Australian

Estate Planning for Blended Families: 6 Tips on Getting It RightImportance of Texture and Layering in Interior Design3 Ways Your Drains Become Blocked 5 Reasons for No Power at HomeHow Is Tequila Made?Why You Should Enlist The Services Of A Property StylistTop Luxury Resorts For A Restorative Staycation In AustraliaUnderstanding Employee Car Allowance Rates in Australia7 Bucket-List Worthy Experiences in DubaiThe Effects of Pollen Throughout the Year What Qualifications Are Required to Work as a Chef in Australia?How You Can Create A Café With A Shipping ContainerA Few Great Uses For Laundry DetergentHow To Make Living With Housemates SimplerGreat Tips For Buying Flowers For Valentine’s Day