Hillary: It's Important to Say “Black Lives Matter”

Jun 25, 2015
Elisa Perez-Selsky
Anna Salem

Page Media

Hilary Clinton

This past Tuesday, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton gave a speech at a historic black church in Missouri, speaking on issues surrounding institutionalized racism in the aftermath of the Charleston, S.C. shooting. In talking about these issues, ones that specifically affect black and brown lives, Hillary chose to use the phrase “all lives matter.” We could almost hear the collective sigh of disappointment among activists and those who stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement upon hearing this news, and for good reason.

Because, Hillary, that’s not what this country needs to hear right now.

Black lives matter

Not only is the phrase “all lives matter” an appropriation and distortion of the clarion call to action and solidarity known as #BlackLivesMatter, which three queer black women (Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi) created, it just misses the point entirely. It is, at its best, a display of ignorance of the racialized realities of black folks’ lives and, at its worst, an outright attempt to silence black voices.

“All lives matter” is erasure, and only draws us further away from being able to address institutionalized racism and its oppressive, often violent, outcomes. We cannot redress harm if we refuse to name it, and it is incumbent upon us, especially white folks and non-black people of color, to project the narrative that needs to be heard. “All lives matter” doesn’t need airtime because people know full well that white lives do matter in the eyes of the state.

But in a country where black lives are disproportionately targeted by state and vigilante violence, we need to hear that black lives matter.

When black Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for drug possession, despite the fact that white and black people use drugs at the same rate, we need to hear that black lives matter.

When every 28 hours, a black man, woman, or child is murdered by police or vigilante law enforcement, we need to hear that black lives matter.

When the average life expectancy for a black transgender woman is 35 years, we need to hear that black lives matter.

So, Hillary, let’s not shy away from centering lives that are systematically devalued. It is not just important to do this at campaign events and press conferences, but also in times of celebration. That is why we are marching on Sunday at San Francisco Pride Parade to affirm that #BlackLivesMatter and to stand with #ProtectTransLives. We need to center the struggle for LGBTQ equality with the members of our communities that are most frequently ignored, silenced, and attacked. When we uplift those most impacted by oppression, everyone benefits.

By focusing our Pride on affirming #BlackLIvesMatter and #ProtectTransLives, we are highlighting the intersectional identities of our communities and firmly stating that racial justice is an LGBTQ issue. While we have made tremendous progress, the struggle for LGBTQ rights, dignity, and survival continues because no one is truly equal until we all are and all lives WILL matter when #BlackLivesMatter.

Elisa Perez-Selsky is an Individual Giving Associate and Anna Salem is a former Organizer with the ACLU of Northern California.