In the aftermath of the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the officers killed in Dallas on Thursday, conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement, what it represents, and how it came about have swelled. "All lives matter" has become a common retort, a (flawed) argument that equates saying "black lives matter" to placing the importance of one group of peoples' lives over others.
But All Lives Matter misunderstands how the Black Lives Matter movement was borne out of a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets black Americans—who are killed by police at higher rates, are more likely to be the target of police violence, and are more likely to spend time in prison.
Cartoonist Kris Straub published a comic two years ago using the analogy of a burning house to explain why Black Lives Matter strikes a chord with so many black Americans, and why it isn't about dishonoring anyone else's lives. Today he added more panels to that comic to flesh out that explanation:
Straub talked about the message he wanted to convey on his website:
The point is, all lives do matter. but lives in mortal peril need more immediate consideration than those that aren’t. that’s not to say there aren’t different levels of jeopardy in everyone’s lives, all of which need to be addressed. there’s always someone with a worse situation, and we get to decide which one to put our energy into. that’s how it’s always been. yes: all lives matter.
but i have the luxury of getting in my car today, getting pulled over for an expired sticker, and having a reasonable expectation that i’ll only receive a ticket instead of four bullets to the torso.
right now, a lot of people don’t have that luxury. “black lives matter” never meant “only black lives matter.” it means they matter as well. as much as. i am not black. i don’t feel devalued by that assertion in the slightest. why on earth would i?
None of this week's events are easily explained away, but each are informed by a criminal justice system that has an adversarial relationship with many black Americans. As we work through the implications of these shootings, Straub's illustration is a clear-headed reminder of why Black Lives Matter doesn't mean that some lives don't matter.