I say this again and again and again…. whenever the majority identity group (ie, whites, sometimes white men) feel the need to silence a minority identity group they find one member of that group who has expressed ideas that the majority group feel best represents their own views. They then trumpet this anywhere and everywhere: we found ONE person who has spoken and now no one else gets to speak. I have written endlessly about the idea that white people, particularly white men, have no one person who speaks for them. When a white man shoots police officers, no one runs to other white men asking if they will denounce that person and their views as another white person. White men are individuals; black men – black people – are but a single entity and they stand and fall as one dependent upon the word of white people.
Ijeomo Olumo has written about the co-opting of Dr. King’s words to prove the point of those trumpeting AllLivesMatter. She writes of this so much better than I. I will simply say this: do consider that you, a white person, are telling black people that they are not entitled to stand behind a slogan and a movement that is for them, by them, and which explicitly names them in it’s title. You are justifying that by telling them that you, a white person, have found the words of another black person and that those words mean they have to do what you, a white person, tells them to do.
All Lives Matter is a useless pointless trite slogan. Yes, I understand that your point is that you are trying to say “All lives should matter, not just the white lives! Black lives matter too!” But if you are a genuinely good person who believes that…then there is no reason to tell people of colour that they are not entitled to use the slogan THEY chose to represent the movement THEY had to start to raise awareness of how little their lives have been valued. No matter what argument you make there is no getting past the doubt you instill by your very insistence on that slogan: that you are uncomfortable declaring Black Lives Matter. That you are insisting on some level of qualifier so you, a white person, are not left out of the equation.
I can say it no more simply than that. Much as anti-feminists try to modify the language and tell feminists that maybe, just maybe they would consider possibly thinking about equality for women but only if women come up with another name that isn’t quite so…about women, white people do not get to say, “Come up with another name and then we’ll support you having rights equal to ours.”
By insisting on a name change, by insisting on imposing a slogan of your choice upon them you are not-so-subtly trying to say that you are the one with the power: the only power or equality they get will be by your choice. You want an acknowledgement of your superiority. The line I read too many times is some version of “blacks are trying to be superior to us!” (much as I am continually told that feminism is about women trying to be superior to men). It has been much said “When you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” And that is what you keep saying any and every time you say “All Lives Matter.”
It ain’t the name that is the problem. The name is pointing at the problem: and the problem is that semantics matter more to you than the desperate fear and unhappiness felt by too many POCs and indigenous people in America. And the real problem is that you have intrinsically accepted that any shift in power is solely yours to bestow, as a white person: so first you start with their slogan.