Why “All Lives Matter” are fighting words with me

Post by Joe Miller:

Standing in line at the MacDonalds with a bunch of guys I didn’t know, who my age or younger, all wearing lycra and bicycle cleats, I thought I would strike up a conversation with them.  I listened for a moment, as they were chatting already.

“They told me to leave, my sign was offensive”.
“What did it say?”
“All lives matter.”
I had been here before, at Burning Man three years ago, when the Law Enforcement Agencies were walking with signs “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter”.  At that time,  I was troubled because it seemed a provocation, but I did not think it through.  I just knew it made me angry.
This time, though, I had a long bicycle ride to thinking through things.
“All Lives Matter”
Is it an aspiration?  Yes, irrefutably?  This would be a fact that few would dispute.  Even when the death penalty is discussed in this context, it is weighing the taking of one life against the forfeiture of another.
A personal belief?  If someone says that is their belief, I must take it at face value.
A statement of fact – I wish that the data would support this fact.  As an epidemiologist, looking at the effects of disease on individuals or groups, I know of no system that values one life over another.  There are methods to determine the economic value of lost years of life.  All lives have value; the argument is not about what the economics of lost earnings are, but rather the right to experience that life.
Compare this to “Black Lives Matter”.
Again- an aspiration?  Perhaps.  Certainly a call to change,  with urgency, for change now, not something we aspire to.  It is not something that we will work toward, it is something we demand now.
A personal belief?  Again, yes.  And I would argue that people who espouse “All lives matter” are trying to believe that they are saying “Black lives DO matter today”, and here I disagree.
As a statement of fact, however, it is clear to me that in the present world, Black Lives DO NOT matter, and this is why the “All Lives Matter” rings so false.  The health care inequities are so obvious.  COVID-19 has made us all recognize that the access to care is NOT equal, and that people of color are carrying the burden of this disease.
Black Lives Matter – and the lives need equal access to health care to make it not aspirational when it comes to life expectancy.
The anger I feel when I hear “All Lives Matter” is because I know, first hand, that when it comes to access to care, some lives matter more than others.
Joe Miller
June 8, 2020

Published by: bikelisteningtour

I'm the family physician riding his bike across the country from Washington DC to Seattle. I'm meeting people along the way and asking them what they know about and think about Obamacare.


2 thoughts on “Why “All Lives Matter” are fighting words with me”

  1. Thank you Joe. You are right on the money in this post. I hope you were able to get your view out there even if it was shot down by the all lives matter “poster.”

    Maybe Additional letters to editors, congress, the senate etc. relaying this message signed by members of your profession are in order?

    Thanks for your post.


  2. I agree. “Black Lives Matter” is shorthand for “black people are treated unequally.” The response “all lives matter” is shorthand for “black people are not treated unequally” (which is provably false) or it is an irrelevant truism. In any event, saying “all lives matter” at this time is insulting, and it is not the clever response the guy at McDonald’s thought it was.
    Have fun on the ride!


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