NJ superintendent apologizes for message saying ‘all lives matter’
HAZLET — The township’s school superintendent this week apologized for writing a statement that included the expression “all lives matter.”
The phrase has become a retort to “Black Lives Matter,” a political movement and expression coined in 2012 following the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighborhood watchman.
Like many public officials in days since the May 25 killing of George Floyd by the hands of Minneapolis police, Superintendent Scott Ridley shared a message meant to condemn racism.
But in a follow-up message this week, Ridley acknowledged his poor choice of words after responses from district employees and township residents.
"I was not aware (though I am now) that the phrase I used had political/racist undertones. That's on me. I wrote it simply because I believe — in a global sense — that all lives do indeed matter and I wanted to use this one heinous moment in our country's history to draw attention on a larger scale to all injustice,” Ridley said.
“But I missed the mark, having since learned, as one responder noted, ‘All Lives Matter is completely disrespectful, especially at this time. This is a phrase that is commonly used to discount the Black Lives Matter movement, and the intention of sending this note at this time can only be construed as a message to discount the movement during the current events.’ Lesson learned.”
The township’s Raritan High School is 84% white and 2% black. The middle school has less than a dozen black students while the elementary schools have even fewer or none.
Some celebrities have been pushing back against the “all lives matter” mantra.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Instagram posted his response to a customer email complaining about the company’s website including a “Black Lives Matter” banner on the homepage.
“‘Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter,” Bezos explained in his reply. "Black lives matter speaks to racism and the disproportionate risk that Black people face in our law enforcement and justice system.”
“I have a 20-year-old son, and I simply don’t worry that he might be choked to death while being detained one day. It’s not something I worry about. Black parents can’t say the same.”
Actor Ashton Kutcher posted an Instagram video addressing ‘folks that are writing ‘All Lives Matter.'”
“[W]hile you may have the best intentions in saying ‘All Lives Matter,' remember, for some people, black lives don't matter at all."
People have been trying to explain Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter or the police version of Blue Lives Matter for years.
This week, Psychology Today columnist Sam Louie says that “implicit bias is built into why people respond with ‘All Lives Matter’ or ‘Blue Lives Matter.’ They are not comfortable seeing the attention and spotlight given to a cause that's not relevant to their lives.”
In April, more than a month before Floyd's killing, Rachel Elizabeth Cargle wrote an essay for Harper’s Bazaar titled “Why you need to stop saying ‘All Lives Matter.’”
“Let me be clear: our stating that black lives matter doesn’t insinuate that other lives don’t,” she writes. “Of course all lives matter. That doesn’t even need to be said. But the fact that white people get so upset about the term black lives matter is proof that nothing can center the wellbeing and livelihoods of black bodies without white people assuming it is to their demise."
Back in 2016, L-Mani S. Viney explained in a Vanity Fair article that “saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ is neither separatist nor racist. It is not anti-white, and, contrary to what some in the media may say, it is definitely not anti-police."
“It’s hardly news to African-Americans that all lives matter. Our history of enduring challenges and tragedies allows us to understand what other people and groups endure. But that same understanding compels us to say Black Lives Matter, because the empathy we have shown others has so rarely been reciprocated,” she continues.
"If All Lives Matter, why do our fellow Americans continually challenge African-Americans to justify our pain instead of empathizing with it?"
Elsewhere in New Jersey this week, the Jackson school district fired a transportation aid for using an anti-black slur on Snapchat, the Asbury Park Press reported.
In Jersey City, meanwhile, McNair High School is investigating reports that 21 students had used racist or anti-gay slurs on social media and group chats, NJ.com reported.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.