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    ‘All Lives Matter’ Is Not Enough

    rebecOver the past several weeks, some people have responded to the Black Lives Matter movement by saying that “all lives matter.” While it is certainly true that all lives do, and should, matter, this response is inadequate, because it fails to acknowledge the specific and disproportionate harms being committed against Black lives.

    It is, in fact, overwhelmingly Black people who, despite being unarmed, are being shot and killed by police or die while in police custody. It is still overwhelmingly Black people who are being incarcerated for minor non-violent acts that are also committed by White people in large numbers—while White people who commit them are usually not prosecuted and imprisoned. The harms of this disproportionate imprisonment last much longer than the time behind bars.

    Those who are imprisoned often lose jobs, homes and family connections. Even upon release they may be denied, in various cases, the right to vote, to obtain student loans and go to school, access to employment, housing, and other public services. The children and family members of those who are imprisoned also suffer. The continued disproportionate use of police force and imprisonment is an ongoing harm in which Black lives are treated as if they do not matter. And so, it is not enough to say that all lives matter. We must also acknowledge, and work to end, the ways in which Black lives are treated as not mattering.

    During many of the efforts to fight for equality for LGBT people, some who opposed our work would say, “Why should gay people get special rights?” Our fight for equal recognition of our humanity, our rights, and our relationships were often rejected, and framed as us unfairly wanting “special” attention—with comments like, “Why do you need a gay parade, when there is no straight parade?” Or, “Why do you need a gay rights law when the constitution already says we are all equal?” These types of comments failed to acknowledge the ways that LGBT people were being specifically and disproportionately targeted for discrimination, and denied basic day-to-day experiences such as having the protections that straight married couples received in everything from the tax code to the right to visit and support a partner in a medical emergency.

    We must continue the work for those LGBT people who are still suffering, including those who live in places without legal recognition, and those like homeless youth, and gender-non-conforming and trans people who still suffer disproportionate unemployment and harassment. We must also support and fight for those who are still being discriminated against and violated today—including non-LGBT people. The continued disproportionate targeting of Black people in the United States by law enforcement, violence, and incarceration is an enduring injustice that deserves to be fought against and ended. Let us continue to work to make it true in our laws and behavior that Black Lives Matter.

    Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 to serve as Oakland’s citywide councilmember. She was re-elected in 2012 and serves currently as Vice Mayor. She is working for safe neighborhoods, for local jobs and for a fresh start for Oakland. Vice Mayor Kaplan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, obtained a Master’s degree from Tufts University and a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School.