“What do you hear when you see all lives matter?”
It’s 7:30PM on a Thursday night in Norris. Nine or ten of us are facing one another in a haphazard circle of chairs when Noor Ali, one of the Peer Inclusion Educators facilitating the conversation, pops the question.
Black Lives Matter opponents use All Live Matter as a defense, purporting Black people garner unjust attention when all people matter as well. It’s used by police departments, city leaders, and citizens alike to express their discomfort with the term.
“I think about ignorance and inability to have dialogue,” says Yoseline Huerta, a junior at Northwestern.
Dino Robinson, an Evanston resident, says that whenever there’s a movement to address an issue, a lot of times the response is to create a distraction. All Lives Matter is that distraction. What frustrates him most is how the general media tries to redefine Black Lives Matter as problematic and divisive.
According to BLM themselves, BLM is an “ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
Protestors that support and uphold BLM are not only visible in response to police brutality against the black community, but also stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the affirmation of transgender people, and more.
The small circle at Norris is only made of three facilitators, a few students and an Evanston resident, but the discussion quickly intensifies.
Michele Enos, another P.I.E. facilitator, shared that ALM is just another example of white supremacy and how it ebbs and flows and changes as it needs, “the same thing on a different day.” Enos goes on to say “It’s not that the spirit of ‘All Lives Matter’ hasn’t always been around, but that ALM makes sense right now [for white people] because Black Lives Matter [is growing]… White supremacy gets to change the rules and make up different things as long as it can keep silencing everyone else in it’s path.”
Soon, the discussion shifted to the sentiment of ‘All Lives Matter’ on campus, and how the pervasive left-leaning campus myth may blind students and faculty to the more subversive and covert ways the sentiment of the phrase is brought out, says PIE Robert Brown.
“This place is less of an echo chamber than people realize, [and] when we continue to say [that it is] it perpetuates a lot of our issues.”
In the Northwestern University Class of 2020 Facebook group, immediately following Donald Trump’s victory on November 9th, Trump supporters and sympathizers- emboldened by his victory- began asking for the support of others in the group who had voted red, and also for kindness from their liberal opposition.
The discussion turned to analyzing how whiteness and racist thinking survives on this campus, even though it isn’t vocalized. Brown said that students knowing not to say racially charged things in campus spaces isn’t the same as knowing why they shouldn’t.
Noor Ali continues this thought, “I think it’s interesting to think that the 2020 page had [this discourse] but the 2019 page doesn’t really have that. Is it because the sophomores on our campus are more educated and left-leaning? Or is it because, at this point, they’ve been on campus long enough to know not to say it in that space… How then do you challenge this idea?”
The event closed out with each person offering a new hashtag to offset that of All Lives Matter.
“#We need you”
“#In this together”
Angel Ayon, a senior at Northwestern, leaves us with their final words:
“This was great, but like one Evanston member said, this is just another Thursday night. As much as these conversations are being had, they been being had…for a really long time. It’s kind of disheartening to hear that it really is just another Thursday night… but it reenergized me to do more. This can’t be just another Thursday night.”