Welcome to the week, ya’ll! Thanks for the positive feedback on last week’s post about the origins of the Black feminist praxis of intersectionality. Stellar activist Pax Ahimsa Gethen provided what I think is a great suggestion to use the term “kyriarchy” when discussing intersecting forms of oppression, so as not to erase the particular struggles that Black women face by throwing around the word “intersectionality.” Be sure to check out Pax’s blog for more important insights on racism, gender, and speciesism.
Today I want to discuss another issue of racial erasure, this time regarding the “whitewashed sentiment” of All Lives Matter. Being tuned into a community of race- and class-privileged proponents of veganism who continue to assert that All Lives Matter in terms of non-human animals, I see this racial microaggression pop up in my social media feeds on a fairly regular basis. In this post, I’m really just passing along the information that innumerable Black people have emphasized since All Lives Matter first popped up, with a particular intended audience of Animal Whites Activists.
Okay, solidarity work, right? To me, working in solidarity with others means understanding the unique circumstances that those others face, listening to what those others are asking of you, and not co-opting their experiences to fit your own agenda. Even though we’re all caught up in the same systems of oppression (capitalism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy), those systems affect particular people in particular ways.
All Lives Matter erases this particularity, which in turn accomplishes two things: 1.) De-emphasizes the systemic police brutality that plagues Black communities almost exclusively (check out this article by Julia Craven for detailed facts and figures on this). 2.) Re-centers whiteness in conversations about race, thus positioning white people as racially oppressed beings and thus without responsibility for confronting white supremacy.
With these effects, All Lives Matter functions in diametric opposition with solidarity work, since it ignores the unique forms of oppression that Black people face, refuses to acknowledge what Black people are asking of us white people, and co-opts the struggle against police-on-Black violence in order to excuse us white people from actively working to dismantle systemic racism. Reddit user GeekAesthete explains the situation particularly succinctly:
Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!
The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.
That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.
When proponents of veganism use All Lives Matter in an effort to emphasize the species-based oppression faced by non-human animals, we are engaging in that same ignoring, that same refusal to acknowledge, that same co-optation. We are playing Oppression Olympics, challenging Black Lives Matter because we believe that Black people are stealing the spotlight from non-human animals, whom we see as a “more oppressed” class.
If we claim to be so worried about understanding oppressions as interconnected, then why on earth would we push back against a movement devoted to dismantling one of those forms of oppression? Why on earth would we feel threatened by that movement if we’re all working toward collective liberation, but just in different ways which take into account the unique struggles faced by certain peoples?
This pushing back, this threatened feeling — this is exactly how the ruling classes want us to act and feel. Their ability to wield and maintain power depends upon dividing us so that we cannot unite against them. By essentially competing instead of working in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter plays right into the hands of those responsible for the oppression and exploitation of those not in power.
So. Fellow white people. Let’s stop centering ourselves and start working in solidarity. Let’s stop getting defensive and start acting self-reflectively. Let’s stop this All Lives Matter nonsense.
In solidarity, Ali.
Harper, Dr. Amie Breeze. “Dear Post-Racial White Vegans: ‘All Lives Matter’ Is a Racial Microaggression Contributing to Our Daily Struggle with Racial Battle Fatigue.” The Sistah Vegan Project. 13 January 2015. Web. 11 August 2015.