When the #BlackLivesMatter movement arose as a result of the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 – and every time it has resurged during the many, many murders and injustices committed against people of colour since – a group of ill-informed people have combated it with a hashtag of their own: #AllLivesMatter.
In some cases it seems to be meant well, in the sense of “black people are people and people’s lives matter,” but it’s actually an insidious nice-guy way of telling black people to get back in their box, that their troubles aren’t so important, actually.
Sadly, it seems the All Lives Matter ‘splainers have taken up residence at Facebook, because Mark Zuckerberg had to take to their employee page this week to tell people – not for the first time – to stop vandalising the Black Lives Matter slogan on a communal signature wall.
The post, obtained by Gizmodo, reads as follows:
While it’s laudable that Mark Zuckerberg has taken time out of his high-profile schedule to address this, it’s disappointing that he should need to. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are the springboards for movements like Black Lives Matter, and this is a perfect example of why – without wishing to coin another hashtag – diversity in tech matters. The people using the platform come in every variety of human, but the people making the platform don’t. You can create as many PR-friendly Facebook pages as you like – but when your “diversity report” shows just 2% of your staff are black in a country whose black population is almost seven times that, the disconnect is clear.
Evidently, this isn’t the kind of company Zuckerberg wants to lead, and it’s genuinely refreshing to see the stereotypical white tech CEO standing up for minorities in this way. It’s not something we see often, and it would have been all too easy to ignore the problem – who among us would have ever known what was written on a wall at Facebook HQ if he hadn’t spoken out? It’s also telling that Zuckerberg posted the message not publicly – as he would if he were looking for plaudits as a noble and colourblind leader – but on an employees-only page not accessible to the outside world.
As Zuck rightly expresses, proclaiming All Lives Matter over the top of a much-needed movement is an incredibly disingenuous way to put down the struggles of a people who’ve been harassed, pursued, accused, attacked and murdered for centuries. Not only this, but actually crossing out the original message says a lot about the intentions of the vandals. Not to support, but to silence.
Yes, all lives do matter. No one denies this. But in the same way women talking about their assault or rape are told it’s “not all men,” the All Lives Matter brigade are actually saying something much more sinister: stop talking about it. Kudos to Zuckerberg for seeing that for what it really is, and calling it out – even among his own employees.
Main image: The All-Nite Images via Flickr Creative Commons