Glossary: Lol – laugh out loud
I find that people who say “all lives matter” are a bit presumptuous and naive. But, hang on, not necessarily in a bad way (sometimes in a bad way, but not always). I recognize the good intention; in fact, I empathize and appreciate it. I hope you’ll stick around long enough to allow me to explain why I don’t agree with this slogan. It’s not because I don’t think all lives should matter, but realistically, currently, all lives don’t matter. However, the end-goal for which everyone should be striving is for all lives to matter.
When we think of the slogan “all lives matter,” particularly when white people use it since it seems they say it more so than any person of colour, we think of race (skin colour) and ethnicity: North American Indigenous People, Black, White, Asian, Arab, South-East Asians, African, South-Americans, etc. Where “all lives matter” becomes a problem is when we narrow our focus to only race and ethnicity at which point we can’t relate to one another; therefore, we have trouble empathizing with one another solely based on skin colour. For example, I may look white, but I’m North-African-Arab, and I will never and can never be White; White people will never and can never be Black; Black people will never and can never be White, and so on. It’s an invariable out of our control. Martin Luther King understood this, and that is why he shifted his movement to highlight something to which everyone can relate, poverty. As we focus our energy on fighting poverty, we further build equity and equality for racialized persons and all people.
Everyone, at some point in their life, has experienced poverty one way or another. Rich people can unexpectedly find themselves living in poverty, while those living in poverty can unexpectedly find themselves living wealthy. How does this affect one’s mindset, when one begins to think of the ability to lose everything or has lost everything, or has nothing to lose? This line of questioning is when one starts to understand why all lives don’t matter. Personally, one may wake up in the morning and think “my neighbour’s life matters just as much as mine;” however, when the government wakes up in the morning, they’re not caring about you or your neighbour in the equal way that you may be. And here lies the main problem: systemic discrimination. So let’s explore why that is. Remember, there are many factors – race being one of them – but to help you on your journey of becoming more educated on this subject matter, and not wanting to overwhelm the masses, I’m going to focus on one relatable aspect:
- How society defines our identity; and
- How we come to accept it through compliance and complacency.
Stanford Prison Experiment: a failed success
Why do good people do bad things? For example, a sweet child has their innocence raped as they transition into adulthood because of the harsh realities in which they live; those harsh realities to which you may never have been exposed and to which you may never be exposed. This question is what kicked off Philip Zimbardo’s experiment on roles and anonymity. The Stanford Prison Experiment was the research that would define his career. Almost everyone in North America has heard and perhaps studied this research. But given the controlled environment in which this study was conducted, most people can only apply this to prison and don’t necessarily think of how relatable this is to the big picture. This experiment can enlighten us on the relationship between those living in poverty and the government.
The experiment ended only six days after it started because the results were remarkably shocking – and not in a good way. There were 24 (anonymous) volunteers, who were college students, broken into two roles at random: prisoner and correctional officer. The rule was simple; adapt to and play out the role you were assigned the way you perceived it to be. In just six days, some correctional officers experienced a power trip demonstrating characteristics of abuse, sadism, torture, and enjoyment in their newfound authority; the prisoners experienced damaging psychological trauma, stress, fear and helplessness. The prisoners adapted to their roles very well that rather than asking to quit the experiment (which they could have at any time) would go through the process of requesting appeals or parole, having their request denied and compliantly returning to their fictional cells. Meanwhile, the correctional officers would extend their shifts to continue to impose different forms of abuse and punishment to their prisoners. It seemed as though the wildly controversial experiment had failed, but if one were to think of the big picture, it successfully shed light on how we perceive our roles in society.
How does this relate to people living in poverty, and what does this have to with all lives matter? It was clear that the volunteers did not see their lives equally mattering, and this is no different than a human being walking through life. Invariable characteristics such as ethnicity, race and physical appearance strongly define our identity. However, social and economic factors such as our wealth, culture, traditions, personalities and our choice of religion and the way people view us influence our identity boxing us into a specific role.
Don’t kid yourself: when you drive by a Honda Civic with your Mercedes Benz, you are subconsciously telling yourself that your life is way better than the poor sucker with the Honda Civic. At that moment, you can’t possibly be considering the hardship this person has gone through to afford a car in this wildly expensive life. Alternatively, you watch the news and see the atrocities happening around the world and think, “Thank God I live in Canada,” not at all realizing that you’ve subconsciously put more worth on your life than those living in Yemen for instance.
You may be thinking now, “Well, if they don’t like it, then they should do something about it!” Sure, I want to be Prime Minister of Canada one day; I want to own a Tesla to reduce my carbon footprint; I want to make a six-figure salary so I can go on cruises and enjoy a margarita by the beach. I can get up and do something about this, and I may be doing something about it; however, there exists bureaucracy and regulations (let’s call these two factors correctional officers) that form obstacles preventing me from doing something about it. The government’s end-goal has never been the best interest of the people; instead, their only goal is to remain relevant. They fear that the only way to stay relevant is by reinforcing our predefined roles and a feeling of victimhood; for example, feeling helpless without them and their handouts. Imagine yourself in poverty, living in a deteriorating community, and being reminded that you are poor and need the government to sustain you. Sure, you will attempt to lift yourself out of poverty within the limitations the government has set. But as you fail time and time again, you’ll begin to feel helpless, resentful, and remove yourself from practicing your right to vote. To you, every political party becomes the same shit in different piles.
All lives don’t matter
At an individual level, you may believe that all lives matter and absolutely we aim to have all lives matter. However, think outside your comfortable bubble and ask yourself why people in poverty don’t vote. Ask yourself why politicians avoid campaigning and door-knocking in housing complexes and buildings. Because:
…Government doesn’t care enough about people living in poverty because people living in poverty don’t vote, because government doesn’t care enough about people living in poverty because people living in poverty don’t vote because government doesn’t care enough about people living in poverty, because, because, because, round and round we go…
Why though? Because if equality was actually achieved, the relevance of government would be limited and we’d have a smaller, more efficient government. Poverty affects everyone, but there’s no denying that there is a disproportionate amount of racialized persons who are living in poverty. Why though? Because if equality was actually achieved, the relevance of government would be limited and we’d have a smaller, more efficient government.
Dunning, B. “What You Didn’t Know about the Stanford Prison Experiment.” Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 27 May 2008. Web. 5 Jul 2020. <https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4102>