WATCH: Black Lives Matter for Dummies

W. Kamau Bell on why "All Lives Matter" is an attack and distraction

By D. Watkins

Published May 4, 2017 5:00PM (EDT)

This Salon Talks video was produced by Alexandra Clinton

“Excuse me, Mr. Watkins,” said the young white college student. “What’s the difference between — or should I say — is it Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter?”

She held her head high with pride, as if she had just asked the most complex question in the world, as if it was original and thought-provoking dilemma.­ I paused and pretended to think about it — you know, to build up the suspense — and then I just laughed.

“You see, I’m not laughing at your question," I said. "I’m laughing at the fact that I’ve been interviewed dozens of times and been to dozens schools where people have asked this same question that seems really silly to me.”

The debate between the two hashtags is nothing more than a distraction from the real issues.

“Of course white lives matter,” I told her. “I see white people all over my TV and inside of the picture frames in the picture frame section at Target. They're captured as statues in like every park all over the country! White people are doing fine!”

The crowd laughed.

“Think about it like this,” I said to the crowd. "What if this was an HIV awareness rally, and I was giving a speech about getting tested, only to be interrupted by a guy who runs in yelling ‘cancer matters, too!’”

Author, comedian and CNN star W. Kamau Bell gets hit with this same question, too, and decided to address the issue on the second season of his show "United Shades of America." Bell stopped by the Salon studio recently talk about the founders of Black Lives Matter, who hardly ever get mentioned by name — that's Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi — and using humor tackle the complexities of race.

D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a professor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project. Watkins is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America” and "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir." His latest book, "We Speak For Ourselves: A Word From Forgotten Black America," is out now.

MORE FROM D. WatkinsFOLLOW @dwatkinsworld

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Black Lives Matter Cnn Comedy Original Video Race Tv United Shades Of America W. Kamau Bell