All Lives Matter.
It makes sense on the surface: the idea that every single human life is worth saving. It’s honestly an unimpeachable sentiment. Which is why it was so easy to be manipulated by racists to dispel a movement that actually stood for the protection of the most lives possible.
The Black Lives Matter movement and subsequent hashtag became a household idea during the protests in Ferguson. The #BlackLivesMatter movement was a rallying cry on social media and on the streets of Missouri. As with any movement that seeks to lift up Black folks, there will inevitably be white folks who want to shut it down. That’s how the idea of “All Lives Matter” was born.
The idea behind #AllLivesMatter was used to counteract #BlackLivesMatter by saying that fighting for Black lives somehow excluded white lives; that the sentiment implied some sort of Black superiority. This is the natural reaction — a bastardization of Black demands for equality by conflating that demand into a quest for superiority. So white people screamed #AllLivesMatter from the rooftops as loudly as they could for the sole purpose of silencing a Black movement.
The truth of this all has never changed: All Lives Matter is anti-Black. It only exists to erase something built out of a desire to save Black lives. If you check Twitter, you’ll only see the hashtag being used to counter Black Lives Matter, never on its own merit. Black Lives Matter is all about uplifting all people by reminding them that nobody is safe until all marginalized people are safe. Black Lives Matter has done more for white people than All Lives Matter has done for everyone.
The All Lives Matter faux-movement sentiment has been pervasive in right-wing, alt-right and Trumpian circles despite — or maybe because of — the danger it presents to Black folks. Trump yelled out “You’re going to hear it once, all lives matter,” as protesters interrupted one of his rallies in Virginia in February 2016. Fox News, Candace Owens, Breitbart, Tomi Lahren and every Trump-adjacent ally in between has screamed out All Lives Matter at one point or another and only in response to shouting down Black Lives Matter. And all under the plausible deniability that this is all about concern for every human life. The dishonest defense is that nobody should be left behind. No life should ever be lost.
As we’ve learned in the past 60 days or so, every one of those attempted justifications for #AllLivesMatter rhetoric is grounded in pure bullsh*t.
In the face of a pandemic that is largely the result of Donald Trump’s neglect, vindictiveness and incompetence, we’ve seen the truth. Neither Donald Trump nor his followers care about All Lives.
After all, it was Trump himself who, just a couple of weeks ago, stood in front of a chart and pointed to the idea of only 100,000 dead Americans being a massive victory for him and his administration. As we’ve seen a death toll across the country that is beyond the range of 9/11, he has touted things like his TV ratings and his chances of winning reelection. That would be vile enough, but Trump and his cronies have gone on record encouraging people to get back to work to boost the economy even if they die as a result. Which, they surely will. We know that jump-starting the economy will result in more Americans dead than if we kept Shelter In Place orders alive.
That doesn’t matter to Trump. All Lives don’t matter nearly as much as those of billionaires who would benefit from a rejuvenated economy (which, by the way, there isn’t any indication that more dead Americans would boost any economy, anyway).
And as Donald Trump goes, so does his army of conviction-less minions. Rudy Giuliani quoted Candace Owens in a tweet comparing the coronavirus to the flu, as has been one of the staple arguments against saving lives. “Approximately 7500 people die every day in the United States,” he shared on March 26th. “That’s approximately 645,000 people so far this year. Coronavirus has killed about 1,000 Americans this year. Just a little perspective.” Of course, there are now more than 31,000 dead in the United States. But, beyond that, Giuliana himself had this to say about #AllLivesMatter: “It’s inherently racist,” he said about Black Lives Matter in 2016. “Number one, it divides us. … All lives matter: White lives, black lives, all lives.”
So how does one go from thinking that every life matters to suddenly thinking that 1,000 dead humans is a negligible amount? Easy. You simply don’t care about all lives to begin with.
Texas’ Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick went on Fox News at the end of March and suggested that old people should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the economy. “No one reached out to me and said, ‘as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’” Patrick said. “And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”
Bill O’Reilly, who has proclaimed that the Black Lives Matter movement was “killing Americans,” just went on record to say that many of the people dying from the coronavirus were on their “last legs anyway.”
All Lives Don’t matter to these people. We knew this was true when they gaslit Black folks in Ferguson and every day since. We knew that All Lives Matter was just poorly-masked anti-Blackness. And now we are watching a Trump-led death cult justify avoidable deaths all for the pursuit of their own selfishness. These liars were able to hide behind cognitive dissonance and plausible deniability, but not anymore; especially as they are outwardly calling for lives to end. There is only one undeniable fact remaining: The only lives that ever mattered to Trump and his cronies are their own.
David Dennis, Jr. is a writer and adjunct professor of Journalism at Morehouse College. David’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Smoking Section, Uproxx, Playboy, The Atlantic, Complex.com and wherever people argue about things on the internet. Read more of his work on NewsOne here.