Sunday morning it was widely spread over social media that someone had vandalized the Black Lives Matter mural on the University of Connecticut’s often painted spirit rock. The vandals painted over the word “Black” and in the same white paint wrote the word “all” above the remaining phrase.
The logic of the statements “all lives matter” and “Black lives matter” are not at odds. “All lives matter” is racist to the extent that its supporters put forth the statement in opposition to the phrase and movement of Black Lives Matter. This was true yesterday at UConn as the vandal did not add their own term but destroyed the phrase “Black lives matter” in favor of “all lives matter”.
Black Lives Matter is a civil rights movement fighting against institutional anti-Black discrimination including the ongoing murder of countless innocent Black people by police. This is a movement for racial justice which finds opposition in All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter and other racist iterations of the idea that right now, it isn’t important to specifically emphasize the value of Black life, even though Black people around the country have many legitimate bases for questioning the value of their own lives.
Predominantly White All Lives Matter supporters, such as our vandal, understand that their phrase is unproductive. They aren’t interested in racial harmony or anti-racism, they want Black Lives Matter to stop existing. They want to return to a time when, despite the presence of systemic racism and oppression, they felt comfortable because they avoided most reminders of it. Racism and segregation are so entrenched in the United States that millions of non-Black Americans consider themselves distant enough from ongoing racism to prefer the ignorance promoted by the phrase “all lives matter”.
This view is wrong on every level. From all of us here at the Daily Campus: Black Lives Matter. All lives may someday matter in a post-racial society, but until that day, the phrase is a detractor from the specific suffering experienced today by Black Americans. Black UConn students’ lives matter and they should be able to rely on a community which responds to racist attacks such as this vandalism. We only hope that in covering BLM we can do justice to these realities and work towards a world in which nobody lives an unvalued life.
The Daily Campus also stands with community members who find President Tom Katsouleas’ social media response to be ignorant and inappropriate. Our president must unequivocally say that Black Lives Matter and choose to stand with the movement. Our administration must establish anti-racist policies which move beyond public relations. It’s unclear how exactly we can move forward right now, but we need leadership that understands the gravity of a racist attack on so many of our community members.