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All Lives Don't Matter

All Lives Don't Matter

All has never meant All. So, when I hear people say, “all lives matter,” I’m inclined to believe they mean, “some lives matter more than others.”

But I stay open and listen for indications that they’re open too.   

As an eternal optimist, I believe in a world where All can embody its true meaning and full potential. This is why shortly after becoming CEO, I added “For All” to the mission, methodology and purpose of Great Place to Work.

I knew all too well about the other world, the one that was constructed to ensure For All was unattainable – by design. But I knew that data, analytics, and insights could be used by purpose-driven leaders to make the impossible become reality.

I’m encouraged by the momentum our movement has achieved and the groundswell of support continues to grow and get stronger. We are joined by forward-thinking CEO’s and early adopters who are now making ten years of changes with a matter of months. More join us every day.

I offer the following thoughts and ideas to help you speak, listen, learn, support and teach your colleagues during this critical moment in history. These are my ideas, so take what is useful and create your own ways to teach people about what racism is and is not.

All has never meant All.

Even our founding fathers never meant All – they too meant Some. We know today that the phrase "All men are created equal" really meant "All white men are created equal" because at the time it was written, Black men were considered to be only three-fifths of a man, and women were left out entirely.

This lie, and the lack of clarity regarding All men, especially Black men, is the foundation of racial inequality. You see, as life got better for the “Some,” it seemed self-interestingly natural to create policies, laws, practices, and requirements that worked to ensure one group would have and enjoy powerful advantages over another.

For example, in the past, the right to vote was contingent upon land ownership. Not coincidentally, there were policies and programs in place that made land ownership for women and Blacks not possible, therefore ensuring that only the powerful group could own land and vote. While this policy is no longer in place, voter suppression is still alive and well through other means today.

All has never meant All. Next, our leaders and strategists made sure that everything about the powerful group was attractive and positive, while everything about the other group was negative and scary, which created the biases and fears that persist today.

Images, movies, stories, and lies were used to ensure that the powerful group felt further justified in creating a safe and just world for themselves.  The enslaving, lynching, imprisoning, and lack of healthcare or education (such as making it illegal to read),worked to affirm these negative images and stereotypes.

“Black people are violent and kill each other” is a popular thought, rather than, “Why are schools, hospitals, housing, unemployment, water quality and lead and mercury content three times worse in the Black community?”  

And why is there a “Black community” in the first place?

The first thought is much easier for people to grab hold of because it allows them to feel superior and affirmed when thinking it. This is by design.

The second thought unearths feelings of anger, or guilt, because it demands contemplating reality and considering whether things are truly fair.

Boots without bootstraps make it hard to run.

All has never meant All. The biggest lie that we are all living today is that racism is overt, easy to see and feel. When a person says, “I know racism when I see it,” they are often defining racism as individual acts of racial prejudice.

Racism is far more insidious. When I think of racism in 2020, I do not think about the KKK, German shepherds and water hoses.

I am of course fueled by those things, but I think more about red-lining and bank loans.

I think about how often I still hear, “We promoted him because he has that hard to describe ‘special something’.” Or, “Qualified candidates of color are so hard to find…oh and remind me again, what is an HBCU?”

I think about the makeup and look of the board rooms and C-Suite leadership teams that I meet with all around the world.

Those visual pictures are worth 401 years of words.

All has never meant all. On August 23, Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in front of his family by heavily armed police officers. They were afraid of what he was “thinking about doing.”

Take a moment to visualize your son, brother, husband, or father being shot 7 times in front of you because of what he was thinking about doing. How does anyone know what a person is thinking? You only truly know what YOU are thinking. We will find out more over time about why this officer felt he had to shoot Jacob. Fear is usually the reason, and hate fuels this fear.

All has never meant All. Which is why all lives matter is a lie. They clearly do not.

I hope that even if the phrase Black Lives Matter pisses you off, that you believe that Black lives matter. Of course, white lives matter as well. But, when a person says, “white lives matter” in response to another saying, “Black Lives Matter,” it is not a statement, it is a reaction.

Do you ever think about why no one in history ever said those words “All Lives Matter” prior to the Black Lives Matter movement?  It’s because there was no reason that anyone needed to say it.

It exists now only in response to people saying that Black lives matter. Its roots are defensive and emotional, thus creating a verbal counterpunch. Where is the innovation in that?

The originators of Black Lives Matter were supporters who were calling attention to and raising awareness of primarily one thing – police brutality that causes the death of unarmed Black life with no consequences for police officers, except paid leave. “All lives matter” is a head fake – a distraction that avoids addressing police brutality and its origins.  

Great Place to Work is For All Now. So, let's get to work on building that world I was telling you about. The one where All really means All. 

So many people are suffering from Covid-19, financial losses, and racism. We must work on all these things, not just two out of three. We are all part of purpose-driven organizations that want all our people and stakeholders to thrive. Clearly our nation needs our help right now.

Where to start?

First, look at the faces on your next Webex, Zoom or GoToMeeting. Who do you see? Who don’t you see?

Second, look at the analytics. Our data of 10 million employees surveyed last year including over two million Black employees, is crystal clear: It’s all about promoting people. Black promotions matter.

Promotions of underrepresented people with a tenure of more than three years is ten times more important than recruiting and hiring, or recognizing cultural celebrations once a year.  Only after we focus on promotion can we talk seriously about inclusion and belonging.

Great Place to Work is For All Now. In our free sessions you will learn to activate your ERGs, hold tough conversations about racism—including how to handle someone saying “all lives matter” at a virtual town hall — and much more, so that your organization can look different (you know what I mean), feel different, and be different (top to bottom) by 2023.

Our For All Now series kicks off in October, so stay tuned for the registration details which are coming from my team soon.

In the meantime, I strongly suggest unlearning about racism and learning about anti-racism by reading or listening to these books: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.

It’s going to take all of us, and we need your help. Let’s make it so that All really does mean For All…Now 

Stay safe, stay well, stay open.


Michael C. Bush