I know, shocking, isn’t it. This is part of a thought train that I had last night before going to sleep, and I didn’t trust myself to write it out then, and now I’ve forgotten the other half of it.
Obviously, All Lives Matter came out as a counter to Black Lives Matter, because white supremacists and people who deny that systemic racism is a thing that exists and has existed in our system for centuries couldn’t tolerate the truth that things are not how they seem to them. The longer description for Black Lives Matter, for me, has often been “No Lives Matter until Black Lives Matter”, a damning indictment of the fact that we, as a society, have always treated Black lives as less than white lives. This really counts for all non-white people, but there’s been a particular focus on Black lives.
But, here’s where my brain goes. Let’s try to strip away the racism for a moment, the white supremacy. Let’s say that someone believes that All Lives Matter because, rightly so, no one deserves to be killed by cops, guilty or not. Our criminal justice system has ideally always been structured in such a way that everyone that interacts with it is innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers. So any time someone is shot in the street, in their bed, in a car, by the cops, they were innocent at the time they were killed. Even if they’d been actively shooting at a cop. Because while yes, there could be overwhelming evidence, that trial has not happened.
Again: every officer involved shooting is a cop shooting an innocent person. Every. Time.
So someone who believes that All Lives Matter should be incensed at any police shooting. White, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, all of them. What we saw last night, as an impromptu protest gathered at the site of Vancouver’s latest cop shooting, was the opposite of that. We had reports of people who claim that all lives matter threaten BLM protesters with rape and murder if they came back in town. We had messages of them proclaiming how ready they were to ‘defend their homes’, and even the next day some claimed that BLM protesters had planted explosives on bridges.
And tonight. Tonight was actually worse. An armored personnel carrier was rented by those same people to intimidate people at a peaceful candlelight vigil. Openly carrying long rifles and paintball guns. Spraying a child in the face with bear spray. Flag proclaiming that they were Trump supporters as they yelled over the sounds of a peaceful vigil.
Tonight, by all accounts, was not the sound of a group of people that think All Lives Matter. I want to be charitable and say that they think White Lives Matter. But it’s not even that, or else they would be complaining when police shoot a white person. Remember, all officer involved shootings are innocent people. No, it’s We Decide Who’s Lives Matter. But that’s not as catchy or rolls off the tongue as well.
I made a comment earlier on Twitter after hearing what had been happening. In all my years, I’ve only ever heard of one group who has ever noisily picketed grieving rites for someone. That’s the Westboro Baptist Church. An organization that has frequently picketed funerals of soldiers, cheering on the idea that people are going to hell.
And I actually have a bit of a history with something like that. I grew up in an evangelical household. It was all I understood about the concept of Christianity until after I was living on my own in the military. That’s when I started to realize that what I was taught and what I could read for myself in the Bible didn’t mesh up. And that other Christians didn’t act the same way as I was taught they should.
But never, never in all of those years, did I ever consider that it was acceptable, much less desirable, for a group of people to actively celebrate the death of someone that they disliked, solely because of the color of their skin, while their family was right there grieving.
As a reporter, I’m in a difficult position here. My ethics require me that when I’m working, when I’m documenting court cases, which some of these people that were out tonight, like Joey Gibson, I am already observing, that I do it from as close to a place of neutrality as I can. And yet, from a moral standpoint, the kinds of things that have happened sicken me.
All lives do matter. But All Lives Matter is a lie, because it’s never been about ‘all lives’. It’s only been about ‘their lives’.