Why ‘All Lives Matter’ is dismissive and a foil for racists and the far-right in Malta

All Lives Matter is a foil that stops us from understanding and dealing with structural problems of racism and even other discriminatory attitudes that punish migrants, people of colour, women, gay and trans people

Raymond Ambrogio, left, a former police sergeant who led the chants at the counter-protest to the Justice For Lassana memorial
Raymond Ambrogio, left, a former police sergeant who led the chants at the counter-protest to the Justice For Lassana memorial

1. Wonderful sentiment, but dismissive

All Lives Matter is a wonderful sentiment… and the people who say Black Lives Matter are indeed making that very point: that black people, but also brown and many other ethnicities and races discriminated against in Western societies by institutions that regard them as inferior, should be a part of everyone, and that their lives matter also. But to use “all lives matter” as a way to dismiss someone saying “black lives matter” to highlight the inherent discrimination towards people of colour, is just that: dismissive.

2. All Lives Matter completely ignores what #BlackLivesMatter is trying to bring out in the open

The intention of Black Lives Matter is not to say that only black lives matter. It is certainly not the intention of those campaigning for justice right now, or those memorialising Lassane Cisse, the Ivorian worker gunned down in cold blood by two AFM soldiers in a drive-by shooting. As a result, when people reply by saying “all lives matter” they are ignoring the problem that #blacklivesmatter is putting out in the open.

Photo: James Bianchi
Photo: James Bianchi

3. #BlueLivesMatter marched. Why not #BlackLivesMatter?

We seem to live in an island where everyone will agree that “all lives matter”. When a police officer was brutally ran over by a joyrider, the entire police corps and the President of Malta marched in Valletta for #BlueLivesMatter. Nobody raised one single objection in Malta. So why the hate towards the people who want to remember Lassana Cisse or believe that the human rights of people saved at sea should be respected? Clearly, not all lives matter as many claim.

4. The Maltese far-right is clearly a fan of “all lives matter”

Notice on Facebook how many ‘patriots’ and anti-immigrant loudmouths are clearly fond of the “all lives matter” slogan? If that is not a red light of how that kind of anti-migrant sentiment is being transplanted into the “all lives matter” catchphrase to nullify the memorial of people like Lassana Cisse, then what is?

Counter-protestors chanted 'go back home' amongst other insults to people gathered at the Lassana Cisse memorial
Counter-protestors chanted 'go back home' amongst other insults to people gathered at the Lassana Cisse memorial

5. Our history of race relations is young, but we need to address it urgently

Malta may have little in common with the United States’ history of slaving and discrimination towards black people… but the fact is that the asylum seeker, the migrant who entered Malta illegally, and the refugee, which in their main are always African, are all processed through a state apparatus of security and, dare-I-say-it, government-sanctioned national anxiety: rescued at sea by the army, then detained, processed, and finally released, some with international protection or subsidiary protection, others in limbo pending a final removal. Add to this the shrill voice of government ministers and politicos on both sides of the divide complaining about Malta being “full up” (except if you are a cash-rich tourist, high net-worth individual with “talent”, or skilled remote gambling disciple in the market for a Swieqi apartment). Migrants like Lassana are part of an underclass seen as unwanted neighbours or cheap sources of labour (exploited by employers, resented by natives as competing workers).

6. Let’s think about the lives of non-male, non-white, non-heterosexual, non-native, non-cisgender, non-affluent people and their living experience in Malta

Malta is very white. It is very Catholic. Mathematically, you can surmise that the majority of white collar crimes, unpaid taxes, as well as major criminal activities, are committed by white, Maltese Catholics; not migrants, although that does not mean they are not liable to commit crimes. But societally, the press and social media vultures from the left and right are eager to exploit the scandal of a migrant who, say kills a Maltese national, or causes havoc in some drunken fracas; because it is held up as a warning sign of the non-Maltese communities among us (rather than the conditions in which a racialised underclass lives in, perhaps). Yet, little is made of murders where the man is Maltese and when the victim is a woman, because of the normalisation of violent, patriarchal attitudes towards women; and certainly enough, we do not remember the men who lost their lives because of racist murders: Lassane Cisse and Mamadou Kamara. Clearly, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.

7. Not only are black lives not equally at risk, but Maltese white privilege is clearly a thing

The truth of the matter is that not all lives in Malta are equally at risk. Black people in Malta, and migrants must obviously ‘check themselves’ before making any moves that might inspire a ‘go back home’ reaction. The reaction on social media to the Justice for Lassana memorial shows just as much. I’ve seen Facebook livestreams from angry shouty-wouty machos like tiger-boy Anton Cutajar (link here, no embed) who claim protests in favour of human rights for migrants or the Justice for Lassana event are intended at destabilising retail business in Valletta “just as what happened in December” (a reference to the political crisis prompted by the arrest of the alleged mastermind in the Caruana Galizia assassination), and by implication, destabilising the Labour government; or former police sergeant Raymond Ambrogio who called for a counter-protest to Justice for Lassana to be held. They frame it as their universal right to be free to impart their views and opinions; but in reality, it is meant to shout down, drown out the voices of those who claim the same right in support for migrant communities. Within white supremacy, both these opinions as well as black lives, are without value.

More in Blogs