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This has to do with the events going on regarding racism and discrimination. A good friend of mine is black. He recently posted something on social media saying "if you say 'all lives matter' please unfriend me". He messaged me sending me a picture of his post. I feel obligated to like it or reply in someway affirming it. I have no clue how to reply to him.

I really don't like to get political on social media, especially about what's going on recently. On the other side I really want to supportive of my friend. I never posted "all lives matter" but honestly, that's kind of what I think.

To be blunt, I'm afraid my friend is saying "if you're not with us you're against us" (he's not specifically using those words, but I've seen other people use them). Perhaps I'm reading too much into it. How do I stay friends with him with (at least publicly) not getting involved in politics?

I think it's important to point out that we do not live in the US, where all the riots and protests started. Also just in general I have little trust for platforms like Facebook respecting peoples privacy so I generally don't like to speak about politics on it.

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    @EmC I actually did read the Wikipedia page and it doesn't really explain anything other than various people reasserting the claim. Please correct me if I missed something. And to answer your question, I'm more than happy to talk to my friend about it. We live in different cities now so it would have to be over the phone. – user29833 Jun 17 at 17:31
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    You said that you've never posted "all lives matter" regardless of your feelings. Do you have any reason to think there was a reason your friend sent this message to you directly? Was there anything else you've posted or said to your friend that would give him an idea of your beliefs on this matter? What I'm saying is that it seems potentially...targeted that your friend would send you a copy of the post directly (or maybe they sent it to everyone they know—I don't know), and I'm curious if you have any guesses as to whether anything you've said or posted may have precipitated that. – Zach Lipton Jun 19 at 5:04
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    @ZachLipton I don't think so – user29833 Jun 19 at 7:31
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    You say "but honestly, that's kind of what I think." This is where your question is faulty, because there are 2 wildly different meanings of "All lives matter": #1 that everyone really is important. #2 that BLM should sit down and shut up because they're not special. Those are two common ways that "All lives matter" can be interpreted. Could you clarify what exactly it is that you believe? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 20 at 6:12
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First, let me explain why your friend has a problem with "all lives matter." It sounds like a rebuttal, like you're correcting the person who said Black Lives Matter. I've seen analogies like "if someone says Save the Whales you don't say All Marine Mammals Matter" or if one house on the block is on fire, you don't spray water on the house across the street saying "all houses matter" and so on. If you truly think all lives matter, then you think black lives matter. The slogan might be easier to understand if it was lengthened to "All Lives Matter, Including Black Ones Which Often Get Left Out and Forgotten". It's not "Black Lives Matter More Than Any Other Ones" and that's not a meaning you should read into that.

Now, how to respond to your friend. I have a number of friends on social media who have broadcast "if you X, just unfriend me now" statements when I don't X. (While you got a one-on-one message, I bet it was part of a blast where messages went to all their friends.) There is no need at all for you to reply with "no worries, we're good, I'm not unfriending you" kind of responses. These don't support or help your friend at all. If you want to stay friends, do nothing. And especially do not say All Lives Matter to your friend, stick up for the saying All Lives Matter, or ask your friend to explain what is wrong with saying All Lives Matter. Your friend is stressed out and tired right now (as are many of mine) and doesn't have energy to teach you what this is about if you don't really know. You said this isn't something you've looked into deeply or want to, and that's your privilege -- but don't share your half-formed opinion when you've been told in advance it's upsetting.

If you want to be supportive, then reply to your friend without discussing slogans at all. Say something helpful and supportive about your friend specifically. Hope they are doing well, staying positive, or whatever. People who are so stressed that they're telling large groups of people "don't say X around me" are nearing the end of their rope. That's a time when supportive friends are most valuable. I have some Facebook friends with whom I disagree on many important political issues, and we stay friendly by focusing on our friendship, not on slogans and "check the boxes" politics.

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    So to summarize you're suggesting to not reply to the subject? – user29833 Jun 17 at 20:54
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    I don't see any good that comes from discussing whether or not you think all lives matter with your friend, unless it's to say "thanks for alerting me that this was problematic; I no longer say this and I get where you're coming from." If you don't want to say that, don't discuss whose lives matter or not and just be a friend to your friend who seems to need one now. – Kate Gregory Jun 17 at 20:56
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Start by considering your friend's position

If you accept the premise that there is systemic racism making the lives of certain people more difficult through no reason beyond their heritage or colour of their skin (and it sounds like you do as you want to support your friend). Then I suspect the difference of opinion between 'Black Lives Matter' (BLM) and 'All Lives Matter' (ALM) is merely misunderstanding the sentiment.

BLM is coming from a position of being treated as if they don't matter. It is people standing up and saying that, despite how they have been treated, they do in fact matter. ALM is coming from people who, having never been treated as though they don't matter, are (ironically) insisting that no one should get special treatment. All BLM is asking for is the same treatment as others.

Your key issue seems to come from:

To be blunt, I'm afraid my friend is saying "if you're not with us you're against us" (he's not specifically using those words, but I've seen other people use them).

I can understand feeling uncomfortable with this. I know that what you want is to not get involved - your life is simpler that way. The unfortunate truth, however, is that silence only supports the status quo*. If you don't treat the issue as important you'll only contribute to it's persistence.

You can't not be involved in the politics when even your silence is a statement. It does put us in a difficult situation - I don't like posting about politics on social media either but after a great deal of thought I came to the conclusion we have no other option. I'll put details of my experience (as is required) at the end.

What next for you

The key points from what you've told us are that this is a good friend and that you want to be supportive.

Before starting the conversation ensure that you've accepted the fact that this is something you've no experience of. You need to listen to them - pretending you've knowledge about how they're experiencing this is one of the key problems here.

That being said I would start with talking to your friend openly about this and understand their experiences of racism (both open and systematic). Avoid using phrases like BLM and ALM for now because I doubt you'll find your differences are more than semantics.

Your friend is likely on the defensive - steer away from putting your own opinion forwards until you've considered all they have to say. Be willing to change your mind.

A good starting point would be something simple like:

Hi [friend], I've seen your posts recently and I'll admit I'm struggling with some aspects of this. Can I get a bit more of your perspective?

Another thing to consider is whether you call or talk over private messages. Messages give you time to consider what has been written, reread if necessary, and give a more considered response but what they don't carry is the emotion behind the words. A question you've asked in earnest can sound accusatory if read wrong, this is where a phone (or video) call could be more beneficial.

This is a good friend - you don't want to fall out just because you've misunderstood what a phrase means.


Source:

My personal experience is in talking to my own black friends after seeing a rather unhealthy argument break out on social media. Before really thinking about it I had considered BLM as divisive, putting some line between black and white people.

I started a conversation similar to the one I've suggested and after a fair bit of talking (over the phone in my case) I realised that BLM isn't putting the line between races, it's highlighting one that is already there. A line that has been slowly broken down to a point where is no longer visible in the form of separate water fountains, toilets and bars but still exists as being less likely to be called for a job and more likely to be shot by police.

*Silence being equal to assent (and this the persistence of the status quo) isn't a novel idea. It is regularly implemented in the EU and law.

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