(September 10, 2020)
The following sequence has become all too common, including within Catholic circles:
Person A: Black Lives Matter!
Person B: Why only Black Lives? Shouldn’t All Lives Matter?
Person A: What if a house is on fire: Do all houses matter? What if your parent has brain cancer: Do all cancers matter? What if a family member died: Do all deaths matter?
Person A is then derailed from the intended activism in order to defend the defense of Black Lives.
For the All Lives Matter (“ALM”) camp, I will give the benefit of the doubt that some of them are truly confused, and the insistence on “All Lives” might be tempered once one gains a proper understanding of Black Lives Matter (“BLM”).
However, I do believe that the vast majority of the ALM camp adheres to this battle cry to silence the defense of Black Lives.
If one is a true advocate that All Lives Matter, then there would be no conflict in supporting BLM. In fact, such advocates would be very busy, marching for Black Lives, seeking equity for Latinx people including those who are seeking asylum in the US, defending racial slurs against Asians, and fighting against the Muslim immigration ban.
If one truly advocated that All Lives Matter, that person would be an antiracist.
In How to Be an Antiracist, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi defines antiracism as a powerful collection of policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by the idea that all races are equal amid their apparent differences.
Interestingly, those who support BLM are often also working for justice for all marginalized races, not just for Black people.
To be antiracist is to assert that no race is superior, no race is inferior, and all races are equal. Every person regardless of race ought to have an equal seat at the table of society.
ALM proponents are truly part of the problem, not the solution, when it comes to racial justice, particularly for Black people.
Additionally, those who militate against the BLM slogan, including those in the ALM camp, may be motivated by inherently racist beliefs.
BLM conflicts with a white supremacist framework, or more directly a belief that Black people are inferior. Those who subscribe to these beliefs have not named their racism, are overtly racists, or do not believe such beliefs constitute as racism.
Based on the trajectory that most of the proponents of ALM are not working for broad racial equity, I posit that the ALM argument is in actuality a form of gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a means of creating a power imbalance by making the other person question one’s reality. The ALM counter-slogan wears down the BLM supporter by this circular logic, and can have the effect of making the BLM supporter appear to be in the wrong as well as create confusion, which are the rotten fruits of gaslighting.
Additionally, consistent with gaslighting, ALM supporters’ actions do not match their words.
As stated above, if they truly believed All Lives Matter, then ALM supporters should have no problem supporting Black Lives, in addition to other marginalized races.
Thirdly, gaslighting with respect to ALM has the objective of projecting, which promotes the falsehood that the BLM supporter is racist and only cares about Black Lives, when in reality the ALM supporter is the covert racist, exhibiting no concern for Black Lives, and likely having no concern for other minorities.
Lastly, the ALM gaslighting technique aims to divide, aligning bystanders against BLM supporters using its confusing and circular logic.
In defusing and unmasking ALM, it is important to understand BLM.
Alicia Garza, one of the three co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, originated the BLM slogan following the murder of Trayvon Martin, whose only crime was being in a white neighborhood while Black.
BLM is about defending Black Lives from unwarranted, criminal, and sinful measures. Those who are against BLM are in favor of these measures and are racially motivated for Black Lives to continue to experience injustice.
Whether the ALM proponent is of a religious or secular motivation, a review of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s counsel on the false spirit from the Spiritual Exercises is in order.
The evil spirit operates as an Angel of Light (SpEx 332) who offers “holy and pious thoughts that are wholly in conformity with the sanctity of the soul,” until this Angel of Light endeavors “little by little to end by drawing the soul into his hidden snares and designs.”
The good and holy thought in this example, being in favor of “all lives,” is used as a cover to diminish the importance of Black Lives, thereby promoting the sin of racism rather than opposing it.
Therefore, let us not be caught in the fog of the ALM gaslight, but let us adhere to the principles of discernment as well as Jesus’ call to love our neighbor by defending the marginalized and disarming the tactics of deception so that we as a Church may emphatically proclaim that Black Lives Matter.