As my 11-year-old was grieving after watching the video of the police officer with his knee pressed into the neck of George Floyd, we had to have “the talk” — one of the most emotional conversations a Black father could have with his Black son. Later, while playing the video game Fortnite with his white friends, one of them mentioned that there were protests on Fortnite related to George Floyd’s murder. When my son said that Black Lives Matter, one of his friends countered by saying, “All Lives Matter.” For reasons that my son was not able to fully articulate, his friend’s’ words upset him very much.
After helping him to understand why he was feeling upset, my wife contacted his friend’s parents to express our anger and disappointment that their son would say this to our son. The parents were mortified, and after talking with their son, they wanted to talk with us. They apologized and explained that they had never said those words to their son, and when talking with him, it became apparent that he did not understand how those words could serve to negate or minimize the message of Black Lives Matter.
While a child’s utterance of All Lives Matter may likely be uttered in youthful naivete, I do not extend the same considerations to corporations such as Walmart or politicians such as Pence. The refusal to even say the words Black Lives Matter is a blatant disregard of the pain experienced by Black people and suggests a racial skepticism that will never heal the racial divisions in this country.