While Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and the internet continue to disparage the merits of Black Lives Matter, the realities that inspired the movement weren't up for debate at the return of VH1's Hip-Hop Honors on Monday night at New York City's Lincoln Center. "If I go outside and try to hail a cab, and he passes me for the white woman standing right there, racism is still alive and kicking," Queen Latifah, one of the night's honorees, said in her speech. "We have to change that. And I'm not blaming the white lady; she needed a cab, too. I'm just saying we need to change this attitude." It's a hypothetical that indirectly subverts All Lives Matter — a popular dissenting hashtag used mostly by white people as a counterargument for Black Lives Matter — which has come under fire for being, at best, reductive, and at worst, racist. Vulture asked 12 attendees at VH1's Hip-Hop Honors for their thoughts on why All Lives Matter is so problematic — and why it's not.
Lea DeLaria, actress, Orange Is the New Black:
"Black Lives Matter doesn't mean that all lives don't matter, what it means is that black lives matter do as well. And we live in a society that unfortunately teaches people — and usually it is the people that are hashtagging #AllLivesMatter — that black lives are less important than theirs. And anybody that lives in America and thinks that that isn't taught is a fucking idiot and surrounded by an information-proof shield and is probably a racist. Or Donald Trump, if not all three ... [The shootings were] pretty horrifying, I have to say. I've been basically crying since Orlando. I've been weeping for my people, for my brothers and sisters, for my country, for this world. It's not good what's going on right now, and that's why — I'm sorry, I'm going right to politics: Get out in November and vote for Hillary Clinton. Because she's the only one that's gonna make a change."
Ice-T, rapper and actor, Law and Order: SVU:
"I understand all lives matter, that's why people are saying, you know, we all should address each other as humans. I love that sentiment. That's how I feel. But when I say 'black lives matter,' and you say 'all lives matter,' that's like you saying, 'women's rights' and I say, 'human rights.' It dilutes what you're saying ... But here's the big thing to Black Lives Matter: Black people have to understand that black lives matter also. We're killing ourselves at a far more alarming rate than the police are killing us. So we have to address our black-on-black crime, our stuff that's going on in the hood also, along with police brutality. That's the big problem. It's just, all of our lives, especially black people, we need to just get in check to address our worth, and take care of ourselves."
Franchesca Ramsey, comedian-activist-correspondent, The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore:
"People that use that hashtag don't realize that Black Lives Matter does not mean that our lives matter more than anyone else's. It's a call to action, because unfortunately, our stories don't get told, and unfortunately, we often don't get justice when we have innocent victims die at the hands of police violence. And so I think that people who use #AllLivesMatter are not understanding what Black Lives Matter really means ... We had a video of Rodney King, and you saw how that worked out. So yes, I'm glad that camera phones are making this accessible to lots of people, but at the same time, for a lot of us, this is not new information. We've known that this has been happening. But I do think, though, that the positive side of it is that a lot of people who did not realize that racism is still a problem, that police brutality and racial profiling is a problem, are having their eyes opened to it."
Brandon Victor Dixon, actor, Hamilton:
"Many analogies have been made at this point, but the fact of the matter is: Yes, all lives matter, but the lives that we're talking about right now are black lives, because those are the ones in acute danger. And, really, the cracks in the systemic infrastructure that's been built through the belief in white superiority that's been created in this country is really what's responsible for it, and I'm glad that those things are starting to reveal themselves, you know? So that we can have these conversations and we can start to really enact a process of reconciliation and change, because that's what's required: awareness, reconciliation, and change.
Teyana Taylor, singer:
"All that matters to me is that black lives matter, and everything that's going on just needs to stop. It needs to. All we can do is come together, get the word out. You know, use our platforms to get it out and not just sit back and act like we don't see or know what's going on."
Emma Myles, actress, Orange Is the New Black:
"I think it's just completely missing the point. There's a reason why #BlackLivesMatter was a hashtag to begin with — it's to point out the fact that black lives were being targeted unfairly and to pull out #AllLivesMatter is like, 'Duh!' Of course! But we're not talking about that right now. Clearly, if all lives mattered, this shit wouldn't be happening."
Yandy Smith-Harris, reality star, Love & Hip-Hop:
"I think people just get this whole thing misconstrued: Of course, I want everyone to matter. I think everyone deserves a fair chance, but right now, there are young African-American men and women that are being targeted for these injustices. So if I go to the doctor because I have a broken arm, of course all my bones matter, but the broken arm is what's broken. And right now, the justice system is broken toward these African-American people, and that's all that they've got to admit ... I was in Atlanta two days after the horrible incident in Baton Rouge and what I felt was unity. I saw a lot of people hurt, broken, in pain, and that were really wanting change. You know, there were people standing on cars, there were people climbing poles, in trees, screaming and yelling, 'We're gonna be all right!' Screaming and yelling, 'Justice or else!' And it kind of felt euphoric. It felt really amazing to have all those many people with the same beliefs and the same fight in one space."
Roxanne Shanté, rapper:
"I can understand how everyone — as a human being — feels that their life matters, but right now, what we have going on is with black lives, and that's what matters at this moment. Not saying that I'm taking away any value from anyone else's life, but the fact is the situation that's going on now is taking place with my culture, with my people, so therefore we need to get that word out. And I understand that sometimes when people see something getting some attention, they automatically feel that they want to jump in it, or they want to divert people's attention from it, or they want to make it seem like that — until it happens to them."
Melody Fox, host of Real Conversations:
"All lives do matter, and I think that it's okay to say black lives matter, but you know, I don't have a problem celebrating that life matters, humanity matters. But you know, it shouldn't overshadow the issues with Black Lives Matter, because it's a serious [issue] right now."
Coco Austin, actress:
"Yeah, everyone's lives matter; we just need to fix the problem that's going on right now. Right now, we see a rise in black and Latino [deaths]. We just need to really pay attention. People are upset because they're not focusing on the problem. Take care of the problem and there won't be any anger. We can get rid of this whole situation. We just need to take care of the issues."
Naughty By Nature (Vin Rock, DJ Kay Gee, Treach), rappers:
Vinnie: "All lives do matter. But when certain things are going on and you say, 'All black lives matter' — I mean, let it be there. Have your own different hashtag. Don't look like you're just trying to take and degrade what somebody else is standing for, because all lives do matter, but you have to respect what's going on right now, the plight of the black man, black woman, black people, what we're going through. Give us our chance to do it. That's like on Mother's Day, if you're talking about how great the fathers are. You've gotta give mothers their Mother's Day props. You've gotta give fathers their Father's Day props."
KG: "Right, and it's because – you know black lives matter, that doesn't necessarily mean we're saying that all lives don't matter, because all lives matter, it's under 'all lives.' You just gave a great point: If you're saying 'Happy Mother's Day' on Mother's Day, that doesn't mean that you don't want to give props to the fathers. It's just at that point, we're showing props to the mother."