ALL LIVES MATTER… until someone dies in an ICE detention center and “well, they should have come here legally.

ALL LIVES MATTER… until you want a haircut and “COVID-19 only kills old people.”

ALL LIVES MATTER… until your neighbor dies of an overdose and “addiction is a choice.”

ALL LIVES MATTER… until you find out they are LGBTQ+ and “that’s against my religion.”

“ALL LIVES MATTER” when it’s convenient for you, otherwise it sounds like a lie.

– Author Unknown

White friend, we need to talk. When I joined millions of people in loudly declaring that Black Lives Matter, you replied that All Lives Matter.

I tried to tell you that wasn’t really the point; that sometimes when groups of people are being systemically victimized and perpetually treated as less-than, that these lives need to be specifically affirmed by those with privilege, until their value is as much as a given as anyone else’s. Equality that excludes some—simply isn’t equality.

I tried to tell you that White lives and Blue lives have never not mattered, and so this reply was unnecessary, and given the grievous injustices people of color have historically faced in this country — coming from you it was particularly destructive, particularly painful. It was the adding of insult to terrible injury.

I have held onto the faintest of hopes that you really did believed that equality was the desire of your heart, that every person did have the same inherent worth in your eyes, that all people really did matter to you.

But I’ve continued to watch your behavior and it doesn’t match your words.

I’ve seen you applauding the building of a wall to exclude our Mexican neighbors, and the dispatching of law enforcement teams to immediately expel undocumented residents—their families be damned.

I’ve witnessed your elation as refugees were turned away at airports, knowing the horror they are fleeing from and the desperation they live with as their everyday. I’ve noticed your conspicuous silence as vandalism and threat visited mosques and Jewish day schools and Planned Parenthood clinics.

I’ve seen you amen-ing the cutting of school lunch programs and education initiatives for adolescent girls in developing countries. I’ve watched you celebrating legislation allowing the LGBTQ community to be discriminated against, even knowing the exponentially higher rate of suicide within these communities and the harassment they already experience.

I’ve seen you jubilant at the prospect of 24 million people losing healthcare; the sick and the already vulnerable, sexual assault victims, the mentally ill, women. I’ve seen your tirades against black athletes taking a knee to ask the nation to allow all people to enjoy the same freedoms the flag and Anthem point to.

Honestly friend, it doesn’t seem that all lives really matter to you. It feels like your support for life is far more selective than that.

It seems like what matters to you, are straight, white, American, Republican, Christian lives; preferably those who live in your neighborhoods or attend your churches—those who are most like you. Everyone else seems like a threat, a problem, or an afterthought.

And I want to be wrong about this, about you. If I’m wrong, then it will be a joyous mistake, one I will apologize to you for. But I need you to know that this is how it appears from the outside, with only your words and your actions as a measurement.

This is what your life is saying, repeatedly, loudly, emphatically. It is the declaration of your politics, your religion, and your social media comments. It sounds and feels like you have contempt and fear for a great deal of those who comprise our shared humanity

And as horrible as that would be, I can work with that. I can’t work with dishonesty.

I can’t work with someone who outwardly declares the value of all life, while having so little regard so much of it. I can’t work with religion that professes to be love, while it manufactures such bitterness.

I want to understand you, I really do. I want to find a way forward that is life-affirming and redemptive—but I can’t do that until you put all your cards on the table and plainly speak your truth.

What lives really matter to you, and how would I know?

John Pavlovitz

Lee Matz

The original version of this Op Ed was published on

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.

These headline links feature the daily news reports published by Milwaukee Independent about the George Floyd protests, the revival of the Black Lives Matter movement that followed, and their impact on the local community in for 8 months from May to December of 2020.