Why I Would Never Tweet #WhiteLivesMatter
- Juliet Dowley
Could the #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag be counterproductive to the #BlackLivesMatter movement? Juliet explains why she will not be jumping on this trend anytime soon
In the week that reports have emerged about Sandra Bland, the black woman who died in her prison cell just days after being arrested for nothing more than a traffic offence, it’s not surprising that #BlackLivesMatter has been popping up across various social media platforms once again. However, it’s been countered by an even more controversial hashtag: #WhiteLivesMatter.
‘Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.’ At first glance, it’s a statement that’s very difficult to disagree with. So why, when US presidential candidate Martin O’Malley said those words in response to an angry crowd of protestors shouting “Black lives matter” at the Netroots Nation conference earlier this month, was there such a backlash from his audience that he was forced to apologise? And why, when #WhiteLivesMatter began trending on Twitter, did people send angry tweets like this in response?
I don’t wanna hear, #WhiteLivesMatter. They’ve always mattered! As evidenced by enslaving one entire race to serve it.
— Prentice Penny (@The_A_Prentice) July 23, 2015
Some angry tweeters have even linked #WhiteLivesMatter to the White Supremacist organisation the Ku Klux Klan:
Yes, there is a #WhiteLivesMatter movement. It’s called the KKK.
— JadeBrieanne, Author (@BlackNerdJade) July 21, 2015
Labelling everyone who tweets #WhiteLivesMatter as racist in this way is clearly not necessary, but I can see why #WhiteLivesMatter has provoked anger. #BlackLivesMatter is a direct response to the tragic, racially motivated shootings of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man in Ferguson, and of nine innocent worshippers at a black church in Charleston. In a world where black Americans are nearly eight times more likely than white people to be murdered, the need to reaffirm the value of black lives is clear.
On the other hand, the need for people to point out that #WhiteLivesMatter is less obvious. The claim made by supporters of the hashtag is that twitter campaigns to ensure that the murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and the nine victims of the Charleston shooting are covered as much as those of white victims have resulted in a move to the opposite extreme. They point out that President Obama himself travelled to Charleston, and sent his condolences to Brown and Martin’s families, but he has made no mention of the shooting of Kathryn Steinle, a white woman killed at random in San Francisco.
“While it is of course true that #WhiteLivesMatter and indeed that #AllLivesMatter, it’s the lives of black people that are seemingly not valued enough in the world today, so there’s a danger that these hashtags are a distraction from the main issue.”
Every murder is a tragedy, regardless of the colour of the victim’s skin, but the president can’t possibly speak about all of them. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has played a crucial role in ensuring that mainstream media outlets, many of which are dominated by white people, cover important stories, whereas previously they may have gone unnoticed. While it is of course true that #WhiteLivesMatter and indeed that #AllLivesMatter, it’s the lives of black people that are seemingly not valued enough in the world today, so there’s a danger that these hashtags are a distraction from the main issue.
— Hardcore American (@AmericanManic) July 15, 2015
I am white, and I believe that the lives of my race matter- of course I do. But I also realise that racism is a big problem in the world today, so I definitely wouldn’t want to associate myself with views like the one above. It’s for that reason that I would never, ever tweet that #WhiteLivesMatter.