Recently during the first Democratic Presidential Candidates debate, I fully expected there would be a question on racial issues facing the United States, but I was surprised by how it was phrased:  “Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?”

Sometimes in our political arena, we tend to create false alternatives believing that something must be one way OR another way.  I have written before about being careful whenever a question gets posed as “either-or”.  In most cases, we need to seek to replace the “OR” with an “AND”.

All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter

These phrases have, of course, become very politically charged these past few months. “Black lives matter” came out of the response to a number of cases where local police used excessive force against African-American suspects.  It has become a social media and public event rallying call, a sort of shorthand to say that the discounting of black lives by police use of undue force and disproportionate levels of incarceration of blacks needs to stop.

This phrase however has led to a number of alternatives such as “blue lives matter” (calling for the protection of the interests of the police) and, of course, “all lives matter”.

Yes, we can all agree that the lives of everyone, including the police, definitely matter.  No one disputes that point.  What those who use such alternative catch phrases frequently are forgetting is one essential matter — it is not the rest of us who have been discriminated against to such a degree that we have to point out that our lives matter.

I could go on about this point, but it has been well covered by others including this post by David Bedrick in the Huffington Post where he raises 3 points as to what the “all lives matter” response misses.  Even President Obama recently weighed in this past week on the issue as seen in this video.

The only thing I would add to this discussion is this:

“All lives matter” is a lofty and wonderful goal and vision to which we can aspire.

When humanity eventually embraces fully a sense that all lives matter, there will not be the need to elevate our consciousness on the value of any subset of that group– such as blacks–and the inherent value of their lives.  Until we reach that highest vision for ourselves, we may need to point out that “black lives matter”.

Using “All Lives Matter” for Our Evolution

So, yes, all lives matter.  Again, this is not an “either-or” question….it is an “and”.  All lives matter….AND…black lives matter, indigenous lives matter, blue lives matter, white lives matter, yellow lives matter, Christian lives matter, Muslim lives matter, Hindu lives matter, Buddhist lives matter, atheist lives matter, poor lives matter, rich lives matter, pregnant women’s lives matter, unborn babies lives matter, LGBT lives matter, American lives matter, Iraqi lives matter, Iranian lives matter, Russian lives matter, Chinese lives matter, Israeli lives matter, Afghani lives matter, Mexican lives matter, and on and on with every country and possible category in the world…..

The question facing each of us is this:

Who, in all of the vast possible ways we can categorize humanity, have we in our own minds defined as some kind of “other” such that their lives do not “matter” as much as our own?

Stop and think about your answer. I doubt that many of us can truly say “no one”. Our answer to that question points us towards where we need to grow and heal our sense of fear and our projection of our shadow.  Our answer points us to our evolutionary growing edge as an individual.

Unfortunately for all too many Americans, the answer to the question when honestly faced is that the “other” who has not mattered are our African-American brothers and sisters.  Until we can collectively face up to that fact and heal it, we must truly highlight that “black lives matter”.  When we heal that aspect of ourselves, we will be one step closer towards living our highest vision that all lives do truly matter.

Mark Gilbert

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Photo credit: Light Brigading / Foter / CC BY-NC