As the most famous former community organizer in the country — and also its most famous black man — Barack Obama is uniquely positioned to explain why organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement chose that particular name for their campaign. Criticism leveled at the name Black Lives Matter reveals that opponents see the name as a rhetorical attempt to elevate the importance of black lives above the lives of others. An alternative “All Lives Matter” is sometimes suggested, to squelch this perceived favoritism — or special attention — accorded blacks in the Black Lives Matter formulation.
Obama, who has shied away from identifying too strongly with the movement in the past, explained today: “I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase ‘black lives matter’ was not because they were suggesting nobody else’s life matters. Rather, 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.” Simple enough? Obama was speaking at The Marshall Project‘s panel on criminal justice at the White House. The Marshall Project is a nonprofit news org that focuses on the American criminal justice system.