In Depth

How White Lives Matter ‘misses the point’ of Black Lives Matter

Phrase emblazoned on banner flown over Etihad Stadium ahead of clash between Burnley and Manchester City

Burnley Football Club bosses have vowed to slap lifetime bans on supporters who flew a “White Lives Matter” banner over the Etihad Stadium on Monday.

A light aircraft towing the banner appeared in the skies shortly after players from Burnley and Manchester City had kneeled in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM) ahead of kick-off. 

Speaking to reporters after the game, which ended in a 5-0 defeat for his side, Burnley captain Ben Mee said that he and his teammates “were embarrassed, disappointed, upset” about the stunt.

What is the history of the term?

“White Lives Matter” is a counterchant to the “Black Lives Matter” slogan used by anti-racism campaigners in the US and other countries worldwide.

“Use of the tag had increased as a response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, with many posters opposing or criticising the protests,” says the BBC.

It is an extension of the term “All Lives Matter”, which is often used by those who misunderstand the BLM phrase.

“By saying Black Lives Matter, you are not saying that other lives don’t matter,” Dr Ali Meghji, a social inequalities researcher at Cambridge University, told Cambridgeshire Live. “However, you are bringing attention to the way that black people across the world are denied certain human rights by virtue of being black.”

In other words, saying “All Lives Matter” ignores the racism experienced by black people across the globe.

Is it racist?

Whereas “All Lives Matter” is often the result of misinterpretation of what BLM means, the phrase “White Lives Matter” is usually used in a knowingly racist way.

Responding to the Burnley plane stunt, Piara Powar, executive director of football equality group Fare, told The Guardian that “the racist backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement across Europe is a trend we have seen and documented”. 

“Set against the BLM message of equal rights, ‘White Lives Matter’ can only be motivated by racism and a denial of equal rights. It shows exactly why the fight for equality is so important and why the majority of people have supported it.”

The US-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors hate groups and other extremists, describes the term as “a racist response to the civil rights movement”.

As well as being a phrase used by anti-BLM activists, White Lives Matter is also the name of a neo-Nazi group that describes itself as “dedicated to promotion of the white race and taking positive action as a united voice against issues facing our race”. 

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Who says it?

The slogan has been chanted and brandished on signs at a series of far-right protests, including a recent rally by Britain First activists in Westminster.

But more mainstream groups are also using the phrase.

Discussing the Burnley stunt on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, host Piers Morgan said that these people were also “part of the problem”, reports Metro.

“Already our GMB iPad here with viewers comments lighting up,” he said, before quoting viewers’ comments including “sorry, white lives do matter”, “white lives matter too”  and “why do white lives not matter?” 

Urging people to educate themselves, Morgan said: “Honestly, if that’s the way you think, you are ignorant, and you need to find out what it means, why Black Lives Matter has become a hashtag, what it’s about.”

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