Blog: If you say ‘all lives matter’, I say this…

If a house on your street was on fire, would you expect the fire service to arrive and train their hoses on all the houses?

Of course not.

While they would, rightly, argue that all homes matter, in that very moment they’ll focus their attention and expertise on the house that’s burning down.

And so it is with Black Lives Matter.

It’s a statement that’s become a slogan that’s become a movement.

At the weekend, it came to Jersey when around a thousand people gathered, peacefully and observing physical distancing rules, to show their solidarity with all those outraged by the murder of George Floyd in the United States, and to share their own experiences of racism in Jersey.

I tweeted some pictures from that event, this morning, and will be reporting on it and the wider issue of racism on the news on TV tonight (8 June).

What struck me, though, was the immediate response was from people replying to my tweet to tell me that “all lives matter” – the inference, and in some cases explicit meaning, was that it was wrong to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement.

I fear those people are either ignorant or racist. Or both.

All lives should matter, and all lives will matter when black lives also matter equally. The day that racists, homophobes, misogynists and other haters of slices of society have eventually lost the battle is the day that all lives matter. Today, they currently don’t.

To have heard, at the protest in People’s Park on Saturday, from one islander asked by a local shopkeeper whether it was still legal to call her “a n****r” is just one example of wrongs that need righting.

There are also more nuanced circumstances to explore and resolve, including that of statues erected in memory of ‘island heroes’ who had less than heroic backgrounds.

The toppling of a statue in Bristol yesterday, has brought that issue into sharp focus, with the statue of slave trader George Carteret being cited as a local equivalent.

There are, though, differences that also make the Jersey arguments even more compelling.

The Edward Colston statue in Bristol was erected in 1895. The George Carteret statue in St Peter was erected in 2014.

Context is everything.

I grew up a gay man in the north of England where I felt unable to be ‘me’ because of the casual homophobia that existed at school, on TV, and even in conversations among family members who didn’t know my sexuality.

My experience doesn’t even come close to what some people are still experiencing, in 2020, in Jersey and elsewhere.

All lives matter? Damn right they should. Let hope that day comes soon.