The Problem with Humanism and “All Lives Matter”
Wait, don’t ALL lives matter?
They sure do.
So only black lives matter?
No. All lives matter but black people are not included in the term “all lives” due to deeply ingrained institutional racism that has existed in this country since the establishment of slavery and has never left because it’s just not that easy to get rid of racism.
And there is a perfect ending to that unfortunate conversation. But sadly, there is never such a clear understanding on such a controversial topic. Instead, we must analyze this issue much deeper in order to arrive at that glorious epiphany that so many of us have yet to reach.
Let’s start with Humanism. Humanism is a secular philosophy based on the placement of greater value on logic and human potential rather than faith and religion.
This definition of Humanism is the underlying philosophy of the argument that “all lives matter.” Because if the focus is humanity and we are listening to reason, the obvious conclusion is that we are all equal. Therefore, ALL lives should matter. The important word there being SHOULD.
Unfortunately, racism has become so ingrained in our society that a philosophy like Humanism is far more promising than the actual world we live in. Humanism, while a nice idea, simply isn’t working for everyone.
By focusing on “all lives,” we focus on universal issues that affect everyone. This leaves no room for the issues that are unique to specific groups of people. Instead of focusing on racially charged police brutality against Black Americans, we focus only on issues that everyone can relate to.
Everyone being the majority. Everyone being White Americans. Basically, if a White American has not experienced the issue, it doesn’t even exist.
So when one says “all lives matter,” they are not promoting equality. They are assuming equality has already been established. But, sadly, equality has not been established yet and, therefore, the term “all lives” still does not include everyone.
Also, let’s not forget that most of the people that claim “all lives matter” do so in protest against the Black Lives Matter movement. Let’s face it, if you can’t even agree that “black lives matter” then you don’t really even believe that “all lives matter.”
If you really believed that “all lives matter” then you should have no problem accepting the Black Lives Matter movement because black lives should be included in your value for “all lives,” right? Nope. Because you don’t really value black lives. You value your own faulty definition of “all lives” which is really just your way of saying “white lives.”
An article by ThinkProgress quotes President Barrack Obama’s perfect explanation of this controversial issue at a criminal justice discussion panel. “I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase “black lives matter” was not because they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter,” he stated, “What they were suggesting was, there is a specific problem that is happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.”
The concept of Humanism has also been used against and in place of Feminism. Many men and women prefer to refer to themselves as Humanists instead of Feminists, using the same logic that is used for the “all lives matter” argument.
The argument here is that if women are equal to men then why is it called “Feminism”? Why should we focus on women’s issues when we could just focus on gender neutral issues?
And we can use the same reasoning to refute this argument. By focusing on gender neutral issues, we only focus on issues faced by both men and women, completely disregarding the issues faced solely by women or faced solely by men.
We don’t focus on rampant sexual assault against women or reproductive rights or everyday sexism. We don’t focus on socially constructed and false concepts of masculinity that men struggle with.
This is not to say you have to call yourself a Feminist. This is only to refute the use of the term “Humanist.” Humanism is a great philosophy and one that we can really be inspired by. But as mentioned in an article by Everyday Feminism, “Humanism is not a word for a social change or political movement as feminism is.”
Aligning yourself with Feminism is a much more powerful stance than simply believing in humanist principles.
Humanism does not carry with it the weight that it could in a world in which equality has been established. But we haven’t achieved that status as a country and, therefore, Humanism is not the ideology we need right now.
We don’t need an ideology that asserts the inherent equality of all people. We need an ideology that is going to achieve the tangibility of this inherent equality.
We need #BlackLivesMatter. We need Feminsim.