One thing bothering me about the “All Lives Matter” response to the Black Lives Matter movement is that it is a logical fallacy, a straw man argument. This flawed rhetoric unfairly dismisses BLM supporters in one smug little wave of the hand, and is detrimental to the necessary change the movement is seeking.
At first glance, “All Lives Matter” seems like a legitimate idea, because of course all lives matter to us; of course we want to see value placed on all lives. But what this slogan misses is the original proposition—that “black lives matter, too” (and yes, the “too” is implicit here). At the moment, it is highly arguable that they do not, as anyone with an ounce of awareness and a computer or television knows. Therefore, how can all lives matter, when black lives do not? The BLM movement is a pointed issue; the ALM response is a blanket obfuscation of said issue.
A straw man fallacy occurs when an original position is misrepresented, slanted, or embellished in some way, and then criticized/attacked (we see this all the time in politics). The ALM “reasoning” is flawed because it is responding to a distorted representation of the BLM movement and its message. The best analogy I’ve seen to highlight the flaw in the ALM response is this video, “If People Applied ‘All Lives Matter’ Logic to Everyday Life,” by Chris Lam and Edgar Momplaisir, on BuzzFeed. In the first scene, a woman is holding a fundraiser for breast cancer research (because, you know, it matters), and a man angrily responds with “all cancers matter.” Point? Missed.
I cringe every time I see an “All Lives Matter” response to BLM. I think one thing we can at least do to support our black brothers and sisters in fighting the injustices with which they are faced, is not to confuse the message. Better yet, how about we try removing our white privilege blinders, and really see the issue at hand? How about we start listening with open ears (and hearts), and join the dialogue, so we can work together to effect change? Perhaps someday in the future we will be able to legitimately spout “All Lives Matter” all we want. For now, let us stop confusing the issue as something else.