General Article The philosophical flaw in saying “All Lives Matter”

Topic Selected: Racism

Its effect is to stall conversations about anti-Black racism and instead either pretend that all lives do matter, or talk about everybody’s lives all at once—whether or not particular groups are subject to particular injustices right now.

By Arianne Shahvisi

One item that survived my recent wardrobe clear-out is a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Refugees are welcome.” Taken at face value, it’s a lie. In the UK, refugees are decidedly not welcome, and never have been. Asylum seekers’ applications are readily rejected, many are detained and deported, and an alarming proportion of refugees are homeless. Yet the statement is meaningful as an expression of hope: I want to live in a world in which refugees are welcome. It’s a message of protest, a provocation, an objective.

We often use slogans that aren’t strictly true in the hope that stating them publicly prompts a moral conversation which might culminate in their truth. Like “girls can do anything” (in our sexist societies, they c...

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