Not Being A Racist Is Not Good Enough

Reasons why the “All Lives Matter” rebuttal to the Black Lives Matter movement is racist and offensive, despite claiming not to be. It’s not enough to “not be racist”. Be anti-racist.

A crowd of Black Lives Matter protestors fighting racism on a bridge in America.

Imagine being at your child’s funeral and someone else speaks up and says “all children matter”. I recently read an article on social media where the author called this the equivalent of saying ‘all lives matter.’

Talking about race may not be an easy conversation, but it is certainly a long overdue conversation and no doubt a crucial conversation.

In Australia, we can compare this to the terrible bush fires we had earlier this year. When your house is on fire, your house matters more than houses in unaffected neighbouring areas. Imagine those people screaming “my house matters, too!”.

‘All lives matter’ is a deeply problematic phrase and frankly, it is very offensive and hurtful. The phrase makes those who use it indeed sound like they are racists. Or further, someone who does not understand the struggle our coloured and black brothers and sisters have been going through their whole lives.

No one is denying that human rights are important for all races but if you think it has been an equal race for all, you are wrong.

I have one more analogy up my sleeve, especially if you are white and come from a space of white fragility or white privilege.

There used to be a time not too long ago where women could not vote. Women did not get the vote by making perfect martinis for their husbands. Nor did they get it by sitting back and waiting for it to eventually happen. Women had to fight. And when the right to vote was granted, not everyone was equally excited about the change. However, over time, more and more people came on board.

We still have a glass ceiling to break through. Due to certain historical decisions, gender equality is not as equal as you may imagine. Can you relate to how a feminist may feel when they hear ‘what about the men?’ Now imagine being a black woman and potentially gay!

There is a difference between “not being a racist” and being anti-racist. Have you considered how the different intersections of someone’s identity effect how they experience the world? Have you truly considered how much harder many elements of life are for those with black or brown skin? Harder than your own?

It is simply not enough to not be a racist; you need to step up and speak out.

Not speaking up for racism is the same as seeing someone being bullied or harassed and quietly leaving the room.

Moving forward starts with a mindset, followed by action. It starts with the language we use. Don’t think of it as being politically correct. It is about being culturally smart. Inappropriate images and cartoons from 1887 can’t be erased. Instead, they should act as a reminder to politicians, reporters, and the general media to strive to actively erase this from our future.

And for the non-believers and doubters – thank you for reading this far. Maybe I can convince you to adjust your thinking for the fact that equal race treatment is also good for business. One thing we do know about cultural intelligence (CQ) is that you need motivation to grow it. Thus, there is no point arguing with someone who simply does not care enough to listen with an open mind.

Though if you say “I’m not racist”, good for you. Stop saying it and start showing it.

Footnote

For those who are concerned by my use of the black, white and coloured people – depending on your viewpoint you may have a better way to phrase this, but allow me to quote my hero Madiba (Nelson Mandela), who said “I call them white, black, and coloured as that is what I can see.”

Yes, it can be argued that we are all a colour, which is why I was so delighted when Crayola released crayons in every possible shade of skin. Just don’t argue that you don’t see colour because we all do. My challenge is for you to ensure you interpret the data of what you see to be fair and equal and speak out. Be anti-racist.

Written by Director Tanya Finnie
Global Cultural Strategist and Diversity and Inclusion Specialist