Racism today is different than it was in centuries past.

Society may have evolved beyond the rule of mob terror against people of color, but it's impossible to argue racism is behind us.


Photo by Luke Vargas/Flickr.

Today's racism is just a little harder to identify at times. The language is coded with HR-friendly euphemisms. And the struggles of many are dismissed as individual — not systemic — failures because of the exceptional achievements of a few. (Thanks, Obama.)

But have you ever wondered how today's brand of subliminal racism might sound in, say, the 1800s?

Poet Anthony McPherson did. In a performance (watch it below), he explores what the tension between "Black Lives Matter" and the seemingly well-meaning but totally off-the-mark counter cry of "All Lives Matter" might have sounded like in the 19th century United States.

It's old school bigotry with a modern twist. Here are seven examples:

1. On ownership

All GIFs from Button Poetry/YouTube.

2. On friendship

3. On inheritance

4. On freedom and accountability

5. On unity

6. On the "real" enemy

7. On the fight for a better world

Black Lives Matter matters because even centuries after the racially abhorrent founding of the U.S., skin color still plays a role in how people are treated.

Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr.

If you're still grappling with it, check out this explainer from the subreddit Explain Like I'm Five. The analogy they draw is so powerful, it actually changed other users' minds on the issue. Here's the key takeaway:

"It's a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means 'only black lives matter,' when that is obviously not the case. And so saying 'all lives matter' as a direct response to 'black lives matter' is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem." — GeekAesthete on Reddit


Now you know why Black Lives Matter is important. It's about the role of the past in shaping the present. Hopefully more of us will use that awareness to speak up for a better future.

Watch McPherson's mic-dropping (sans the mic-drop) performance: