What’s wrong with “white lives matter”?

On its face, nothing; in context, everything.

White lives, of course, matter. All lives matter. Police officers’ (“blue lives”) matter. If it went no farther than that, it wouldn’t be a problem.

But it is a problem, because those phrases have become a counterpoint to “black lives matter,” and are being used to signal disapproval of the BLM movement. Most people using these phrases won’t come right out and say — although a few do — that “black lives don’t matter,” but that’s what they mean and the words are intended to convey.

“White lives matter” simply takes “all lives matter” to a higher level of flipping the bird to black people. The sentiment it communicates is indistinguishable from waving a Confederate flag in a black person’s face.

Using this language, in this context, is mostly about racism — either denying it exists or saying it’s okay — but at a deeper level it’s also ludicrous, because it implies the oppressors are the victims. White people weren’t enslaved, brutalized by KKK terrorism, subjected to discrimination; nor are they kept in poverty, denied their voting rights, or wantonly murdered by police.

One may claim not to be racist; but saying “white lives matter” is, at best, selfish. At the very least, it conveys “I don’t care.” Used to express opposition to the BLM movement, it implies the racist status quo should continue.

We live in a free society, and people are entitled to their opinions. The First Amendment protects abhorrent speech. But let’s remember, also, the First Amendment only prohibits government censorship; it doesn’t prevent a private business from firing an employee or excluding a customer from its premises, or a sports team from banning fans from its games, for racist behavior. They’re entitled to do that, as an exercise of their freedom.

I’ve posted a number of videos of people who got in trouble for, in most of these cases, making racist comments during the heat of a dispute, often mixed with standard profanities, sometimes while drunk. Frustration, irritation, annoyance, or anger bring out this kind of language from people who don’t engage in racist behavior in their calmer moods, and they will deny being racists, but using racist language is at all times racist.

So is “white lives matter” racist language? I would argue not per se, but rather it depends on the context. But it’s likely to be perceived that way, so I would characterize it as risky language. No law requires anyone to be “politically correct,” but if you use language that others perceive as racist, expect a lot of folks to get upset (read story here), and be prepared for social censure and possibly life-changing consequences for your “political incorrectness.”

Because words matter.

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  1. Mark Adams #

    Part of the problem is that there are racist black, brown, red and yellow people. There is also just simple bias ie people who are similar tend to hang out. Go to any prison or school and check out who sits with who at the lunch table. In an ideal world the tables would match MLKs ideas, but in the real world we are far from that, and apart rom assigned seating administrators do not have any good tools.
    If one looks at how whites treat other whites that can be a eye opening moment. The same black oppressors are likely to be pretty quick in calling their white neighbors white trash. As Marx suggests there is a broad element of class in all this alleged white class and privilege. And if one is in Kenya it maybe there is black privilege and oppression and privilege, or not, but I have not heard that Kenya is a mecca of idea race free living.
    Also the vast majority of white people ancestors cam through places like Ellis Island after the Civil War. Some came even to escape serfdom or the remnants of serfdom. Many early colonists were unwilling indentured servants and knew of the collar. Slavery is a human scourge that rears it ugly head every time we manage to put it down.
    As Kermit said it ain’t easy being green. The reality is it is not for the majority of white people so wonderful and full of privilege, and they are handed everything they needed based on the color of their skin. The majority of Americas poor are white. Often have been for several generations. How is that white privilege and racism working for that white trash.

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    We’re not in Kenya. This link might help you understand white privilege.

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