The phrase “all lives matter” is viewed by some as a tone-deaf and racist response to “black lives matter” — the rallying cry behind the nationwide movement to fight police brutality and systemic discrimination against black people.
This week, a Sandra Bland mural in Canada with the words “black lives matter” was defaced to say “all lives matter.” And Wednesday morning, such a defacement was discovered in the Washington area: A Bethesda church says its “black lives matter” sign outside was ripped to simply read “lives matter” sometime between late Tuesday and early Wednesday.
“It was vandalized in a particularly virulent way,” said Nancy McDonald Ladd, the pastor at River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation. “The word ‘black’ was literally cut out of the sign.”
To critics and activists, saying “all lives matter” undermines the whole movement. Yes, of course, all lives matter, they say, but the movement started because the fates of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland and Sam Dubose show that black people aren’t always treated — in these cases — by law enforcement as if their lives matter. Presidential contenders like Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have faced backlash for saying “all lives matter,” with critics saying they fail to see the necessity of specifically bringing attention to black lives. (These politicians have since said “black lives matter.”)
Ladd says her church, which is about 80 percent white and has a racial justice task force, collectively decided to post that sign earlier this month. This is the first time they have had problems with it. She reported the incident to Montgomery County police, but there are no security cameras monitoring that spot.
“It was a very intentional and thoughtful message for our congregation to put that message out,” Ladd said. “Part of our preparation before putting up the sign was really talking why [we say] ‘black lives matter’ instead of ‘all lives matter.'”
Ladd says the vinyl sign will be replaced with a new one that once again says “black lives matter.”