The Soapbox: Why Won’t Hillary Clinton Say “Black Lives Matter”?

I just seriously cannot with politics right now. While addressing a mostly Black crowd at a church in Florissant, Missouri (not far from Ferguson), Hillary Clinton invoked the “All Lives Matter” mantra, which was started in opposition to the “Black Lives Matter” movement/phrase and mostly used by conservative whites who deny racism exists. Here’s what the Presidential hopeful said:

“The truth is equality, opportunity, civil rights in America are still far from where they need to be. Our schools are still segregated. In fact more segregated than they were in the 1960s. Nearly 6 million young Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 are out of school and out of work. Think of that. Neither learning nor working. And the numbers are particularly high for young people of color. Statistics like these are rebukes to the real progress we have made. And they pose an urgent call for us to act publicly, politically, and personally.

We should start by giving all of our children the tools and opportunities to overcome legacies of discrimination to live up to their own God-given potentials. I just saw some of the young people attending camp here at church down in the basement. And I was thrilled to see that because that is the kind of commitment we need more of, in every church, in every place, until every child is reached. And I hope we can take that as a cause for action.

I learned this not from politics but from my mother who taught me that everybody, everybody needs a chance and a champion. She knew what it was like to have neither one. Her own parents abandoned her. By 14, she was out on her own working as a house maid. Years later when I was old enough to understand, I asked her. What kept you going? Her answer was very simple. Kindness along the way from someone who believed she mattered. All lives matter.”

Whoever the hell is Hillary Clinton’s publicist or speech writer should be fired at once — or if Clinton herself is responsible for using the Conservative Right-supported refrain, she should fire her damn self. Considering the large body of work that explains why the phrase “all lives matter” is contextually racist and wholly inappropriate, it seriously gives me pause that Clinton would even let the words slip out of her mouth.

The Black Lives Matter movement was spearheaded after the murder of Trayvon Martin and subsequent acquittal of his murderer George Zimmerman. It is a response to continued violence and inequality perpetuated by a racist judicial system and police state that was only further galvanized by viral videos that captured the murders of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, and more recent videos of Black women and children being violently pinned down and arrested by White officers. The Black Lives Matter movement and phrase seeks to affirm the Black right to humanity and dignity that is frequently stolen and undermined by America’s system of racism. What it does not mean, however, is that somehow other lives do not matter.

Responding to this cry for justice with the statement “All Lives Matter” is merely a refusal to acknowledge the racism that created the need to affirm that black lives matter in the first place. If all lives do, indeed, matter equally, why is it that predominantly Black lives and bodies are treated with contempt and disregard? Why are there far more Black bodies in jail than white ones? Why are Black people confined to ghettos and relegated to second class citizenry? Why are Black men, women and children more likely to live in poverty? Invoking “All Lives Matter” in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, especially amongst a crowd of Black people and in the aftermath of the mass murders in Charleston, South Carolina, is like showing up to a walk for breast cancer and loudly declaring, “BUT WHAT ABOUT LYMPHOMA/PANCREATIC/TESTICULAR/ALL THE OTHER CANCERS?!”

If Hillary Clinton does truly believe that all lives matter, why has she yet to proclaim that Black lives matter while Black men, women and children who pose no real threat are being shot dead by police, many who will never face repercussions for their crimes? Clinton, instead, like much of White America, chose disregard and erasure. She chose to highlight the hardships of others as if it somehow exempts Whites from having to acknowledge the plight of Black America. Though I’m certain it must have been difficult for Hillary Clinton’s mother, who lost both of her parents and worked as a housemaid, I am equally certain that it would’ve been even more difficult had she been Black.