Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg responded to reporters’ questions about his past use of the phrase ‘All Lives Matter’.
After Buttigieg gave an address on racial justice at the National Action Network’s annual convention on Thursday (4 April), his previous use of the phrase came up with reporters.
CNBC recently revealed Buttigieg said the phrase during a 2015 speech.
‘What I did not understand at that time was that that phrase… was coming to be used as a sort of counter-slogan to Black Lives Matter,’ the candidate told reporters.
He continued: ‘So this statement that seems very anodyne, something that nobody could be against, actually wound up being used to devalue what the Black Lives Matter movement was telling us, which was what we needed to hear. Because unfortunately, it was not obvious to everybody that black lives should be valued the same.’
Buttigieg, who would be the first openly gay president if elected, further said he no longer uses the phrase ‘in that context’.
CNBC reporter Tucker Higgins posted a video of Buttigieg responding to these inquiries.
“Since learning about how that phrase was being used to push back on that activism, I have stopped using it in that context,” Pete Buttigieg says.
— Tucker Higgins (@tuckerhiggins) April 4, 2019
When Buttigieg said ‘all lives matter’ in 2015, he was giving the State of the City address as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. During that time, the city was embroiled in a controversy about recordings of police officers and their various actions.
‘There is no contradiction between respecting the risks that police officers take every day in order to protect this community, and recognizing the need to overcome the biases implicit in a justice system that treats people from different backgrounds differently, even when they are accused of the same offenses,’ he said at the time.
‘We need to take both those things seriously, for the simple and profound reason that all lives matter.’
Why this matters
The Black Lives Matter movement began in earnest in 2012, after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
It gained even more steam — with protests, marches, and more — after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City.
What began as a hashtag turned into a nationwide political movement about systemic racism in America and violence and injustice against black people in the country at the hands of the police and other authority figures.
Critics of the movement began using the phrases ‘all lives matter’ and ‘blue lives matter’ (referring to police officers).
In 2015, former President Barack Obama explained the problems with these phrase and why the Black Lives Matter movement was important.
‘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 said on a panel about criminal justice reform.
‘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.
‘It started being lifted up as “these folks are opposed to police, and they’re opposed to cops, and all lives matter.” So the notion was somehow saying black lives matter was reverse racism, or suggesting other people’s lives didn’t matter or police officers’ lives didn’t matter.’