How One Word Failed the Black Lives Matter Message

The epic failure of a message

Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment, we fail to think things through.  We fail to see the forest for the trees, so to speak.  We have a message we want to get out and have developed such a sense of urgency about it that we just send our message out there without fully evaluating the reception from all angles.  We are all familiar with the term “going off half-cocked“, right?  In other words, headed off to complete our task without being fully prepared to do so.  This phrase goes all the way back to the 1700s and comes from the cocking of a firearm and having it ready to fire when the trigger is pulled.  Half-cocked is the “safety” position and pulling the trigger does absolutely nothing.  If you were going into battle, you would want your firearm in the full-cock position so that when you needed to fire your weapon, simply aiming and pulling the trigger would achieve the desired result.

Got it?


So, going off half-cocked is generally considered to be a bad idea.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at a very important message born out of a very public injustice.

In February 2012, Travon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman and almost everyone with any sense of justice felt the shooting was entirely unjustified.  The next year, Zimmerman’s trial ended in acquittal, and and the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag was born.  The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was born from the outrage over the outcome of this trial. Designed to raise awareness of the extremely uneven percentage of blacks killed in this country just because they are black, the BLM movement exploded in fury during the summer of 2013.  And understandably so. Historically, we have far more blacks in prison than any other societal segment for the same infractions. But this very important message was lost on vast segments of society. But we we’ll get to that in a minute.

The BLM movement unintentionally spawned several alternate movements:

  • All Lives Matter #AllLivesMatter (obvious reaction)
  • Blue Lives Matter #BlueLivesMatter (for law enforcement, where too many die in the line of work)
  • White Lives Matter #WhiteLivesMatter (white supremacy reaction)

All of this is because the BLM movement failed to take into account the likely acceptance / rejection of the message based on the headline.

As I have said for decades now: “Never piss off someone who is in a position to help you or hurt you”  Well, take a look at the consequences of not being mindful of this advice.

Across this nation, there was a vast segment of society who felt they had been “left out”.  That they were not getting the attention they deserved.  That resources and social programs were designed to benefit everyone but them.  They felt disenfranchised.  Left out.  Ignored. They felt everyone else was getting all the attention, and felt marginalized because of it. Notice I injected the word “felt” ahead of each of these verbs. This is intentional, because none of these “feelings” were in fact true.  They were biased perceptions. I am by no means justifying their feelings.  I am merely pointing out how they felt and why.  Do not confuse this with support, because I in no way support these closet bigots.

I’m talking about WHITE PEOPLE.  Certainly not ALL white people, but a significant segment of white people in this country unjustifiably felt this way.  And when Black Lives Matter raised its fist in rage, their response was “What about me?  Doesn’t MY life matter?”  See the problem here?  The message got lost on these people.  People who could have been allies.  People who could have been out on the front lines with the rest of BLM, making their voices heard and adding legitimacy to the movement.  But instead, these people took exception to the entire BLM statement because it intentionally left them out.  They were excluded.  Their lives did NOT matter (according their interpretation of the BLM movement.)  Of course this was not the intention of the movement.  But if the leaders of the movement looked at the big picture at its inception, they could have predicted this response.  They could choose to include everyone else and create allies.  Or they could exclude everyone else and create enemies.  Had the BLM movement done some serious evaluation on how their message would be received, this all could have been avoided.

Avoided with one little word.


That one word would have made all the difference in the movement.



Black Lives Matter TOO



And no one could say they were left out.

See how simple that would have been


All Words Matter


Always think about how your message will be received before you send it.

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