#blacklivesmatter, not #alllivesmatter?


Recently we posted the following meme to our Facebook page
and while the response was generally positive, there was a common response that entered into the conversation time and time again: #AllLivesMatter.  

Of course all lives matter. Using the hashtag Black Lives Matter does not mean Only Black Lives Matter or All Lives Don’t Matter. It means you are aware of the inequities faced by black people and as a humanist you want them to be properly addressed. 

Please watch the following video and share it with your friends. The first step toward addressing this critical issue is to come together and understand that working toward #BlackLivesMatter isn't working against anyone else – it's simply focusing on a particular problem that needs our attention.


Video transcript

Why black lives matter to humanists

If your first thought is “well I am humanist and all lives matter to me” that will be addressed in a moment.

Let’s begin now with this question: what is humanism? 

According to the American Humanist Association, "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity."

In doing so, humanism often addresses issues of social justice, like racial inequality, as part of its commitment to the well-being of life in general and human flourishing in particular.

As humanists, we seek remedies to our problems that are equitable toward all human life. 

But listen to some of these statistics and ask yourself if this is equitable.

-People of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, yet they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned.

-African Americans are twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.

-Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. In New York City, the police routinely stop and frisk pedestrians walking down the street, more than half a million people a year. More than 80% of them are black or Latino, but whites who were stopped were actually more likely to be found breaking the law.

– Racial profiling in traffic stops is likewise a serious problem. Two major studies, one in New Jersey and one in Maryland, found that 15-17% of motorists were black, but they were 42% and 70% respectively of those who were stopped and searched again despite the fact that white drivers were actually more likely to be found with contraband in their cars like drugs or guns.

-African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated.

-Between 1997 and 2006, more than 350,000 people in NYC were arrested for marijuana possession; blacks were five times more likely than whites to be arrested, even though studies have shown that white people smoke marijuana at slightly higher rates than black people.

-1 in 3 black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime and once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. 

So you still might be thinking, "I understand all that and it's horrible, but I still feel like we should talk about the fact that all lives matter, not just black ones." 

Think of it this way, if someone says to you, "Breast cancer is terrible", it doesn't mean they don't care about the horror that is cancer in general. It doesn't mean they don't care about prostate cancer or lung cancer, it simply means that at that moment, they are focused on and worried about breast cancer. And it doesn't mean they don't care about diabetes or AIDS or any other tragic disease.

This is analogous to the black lives matter movement. Yes, all lives matter just like all disease matters but for the sake of those conversations involving the hashtag black lives matter, we are focusing on the inequalities that the black community is suffering from. 

Using the hashtag Black Lives Matter does not mean Only Black Lives Matter or All Lives Don’t Matter. It means you are aware of the inequities faced by black people and as a humanist you want them to be properly addressed. 

Using the hashtag all lives matter in response to black lives matter hashtag hijacks this conversation away from one which aims to bring awareness to an issue that has overarching ethnocultural, political, and social implications. Black Lives Matter levies a challenge, and it is that challenge—which encroaches upon preconceived notions of “reality” that certain people have a problem with. The Black Lives Matter movement is working for a world where black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted.

Black Lives Matter is more than a hashtag—it’s a movement. It serves to highlight a glaring racial disparity issue. The #BlackLivesMatter movement is a call to action, a plea asking people to recognize, that “There’s work yet to be done and we must own it and evolve accordingly.”

Humanism and the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

Join together with like-minded humanists on July 25, 2015 in Boston for Foundation Beyond Belief's annual Humanism at Work conference. This year's theme is #BlackLivesMatter: Listen, Learn, Think, Discuss, Act.

Sikivu Hutchinson will deliver the keynote address and 50% of the proceeds from this event will go to Community Change, Inc. a charity working directly on anti-racism education and advocacy.

We need to make an effort to seek out and understand black voices and experiences. We need to take action on this important – not just important – but critical issue happening right now in our own communities. I hope that each of us will not only listen carefully, learn at least one new thing, and think about what we've heard and learned, but also discuss these concepts with others, and take action to support #blacklivesmatter."