It’s 2023, don’t “all lives matter” me

There is nothing more annoying than going about your business and having someone pull you into an unsolicited conversation about race. Believe it or not, not every Black person is waiting with bated breath to relish in the collective trauma of our community.

White people are always the first to say that minorities make everything about race, yet I’ve never seen a Black person walk up to a white person in a bar, completely unprovoked, and converse with them about how racist their ancestors probably were. Especially when they’re simply trying to unwind from a stressful day at work.

I was walking back from the bar, with a handful of drinks focussing as hard as I could not to spill them, when I hear someone say “beautiful”, quickly followed by a “sorry”.

“Are you talking to me?”

Five words I wish I never uttered as they opened the door for what was coming next. After a few minutes of this white man doing his best to explain how he wasn’t hitting on me as his wife was inside, whilst intermittently apologising for coming across too forward, he went on to say, “let me tell you something right.”

Having our pain and grief on the world’s stage for some reason makes people think it’s OK to say whatever they to want us.

Now, I’ve been around enough drunk white men in my time to know that what’s about to follow in a situation like this, is either going to be extremely offensive or uncomfortable, and in this guy’s case, it was both.

“I’m not a racist right, because my cousin is Black, and I’ve taught my children to respect everyone. I support “Black Lives Matter”, but the thing is, it’s racist because all lives matter. Don’t you agree?”

How I respond to people like this is completely mood dependent. As much as I love the opportunity to get on my high horse and educate someone, I’m also extremely exhausted from this conversation and from carrying that weight on my shoulders, that these days it’s all I can do to nod and smile to end the conversation as quickly as possible.

I do not know how many times this needs to be said, but it is not the responsibility of Black people to educate you on a subject you clearly have zero interest in learning about. It’s been nearly three years since the 2020 protests, yet the lasting effects are not what I had quite hoped. Far from the results we deserve as a community – the most recent and tragic death of Keenan Anderson proves this – dealing with ignorance like this is the last thing we need.

Why do you think it’s my burden to hear your thoughts on what you disagree about a movement that is still clearly needed?

Having our pain and grief on the world’s stage for some reason makes people think it’s OK to say whatever they to want us. It’s like they think because of the attention the situation got, that they have the right to comment on it to any and every Black person they see with no regard for how triggering these conversations can be – especially when they are not coming from a place of mutual respect or understanding.

Do I agree that all lives matter? What kind of a ridiculous question is that? Did some of us learn nothing from 2020 or the death of Keenan Anderson? Not only did he feel the need to rehash the details of the graphic nature of George Floyd’s murder, but he also went on to explain how he used to be a “skinhead” and how he finds the stereotype of all skinheads being racist extremely offensive.

“How can I be a racist? My cousin is Black, my aunty is Black.”

If I had a penny for every time a white person said this to me, I could have bought Twitter myself.

After having to endure this mind-numbingly pointless conversation for the duration of time it took for his drunk self to finish a cigarette, the night had already been ruined. It’s 2023, is your ignorance so strong that you felt the need to walk up to the only two Black girls in the bar to convince us that you aren’t racist in the most problematic way possible? Why do you think it’s my burden to hear your thoughts on what you disagree about a movement that is still clearly needed? A movement that aims to draw light and attention to what Black people endure at the hands of a system that is forever against us?

Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less if you disagree with the wording of a phrase that has been explained over and over again because you take offence to it. The phrase isn’t “Black lives matter and fuck everyone else”. Even if it was, it still wouldn’t be my responsibility to lick your phantom wounds and tell you that your life as a white person matters as well.

It’s the imposing nature of this man for me. There he stood, talking about how he doesn’t see colour, and how he’ll respect anyone who respects him. Yet, there he stood, picking us out based on the colour of our skin, disrespecting our boundaries, trivialising the trauma of the situation, and showing zero awareness to how uncomfortable he was making us.

To all the white allies out there, if you know a person like this, I urge you to tell them to think before they speak, or even better, to keep this kind of nonsense to themselves. Black Lives Matter means exactly what it says it means, and if that does not translate well for those who are offended by the word Black, then I will continue to fear for what our future looks like.

We are fourteen days into 2023 and I do not plan on spending the rest of my year having to deal with the ignorance of people who have no genuine intention of adding to the conversation with anything other than tired complaints and faux offense. We deserve better.

Image credit: Simon Daoudi

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