I do not know how the Lt. Governor of Texas could call protesters ‘hypocrites’ for running away from gun fire. Surely he cannot confuse a people clamoring for responsible policing with some kind of anarchist-libertarian dream of removing police? Right?
He would be easy to disregard if I hadn’t seen many folks echoing those sentiments. “While people were running away from the bullets, I saw cops running toward the bullets.” Yes, the people who signed up to be trained, paid, and supported to address threats to the public did so. It is a very brave thing to do.
And at the very same time …
… shooting an unarmed, unthreatening passenger in a vehicle isn’t brave. Body slamming teenaged girls 1 is not brave. Shooting a man in the back is not brave. Shooting a tased man point-black the chest while he is pinned down by two officers is not particularly brave.
As free thinking educated adults, we should be able to process these concepts and recognize both of these things, right? Some police officers are brave and others are not. Or some are brave some of the time and some are not other times. They can be multiple things because they are people and people are complex.
Knee-jerk responses to the hashtag #blacklivesmatter with #ALLlivesmatter or #BLUElivesmatter seem petulant in their fundamental misunderstanding of the origin of the original.
It is as if they see an invisible ‘only’ before the words Black Lives Matter, instead of the societal context that heavily suggests they do not.
It is frustrating and scary to imagine the level of effort required to bring a level of understanding to people willfully ignorant or stubbornly opposed.
The average folks who think President Obama is waging a war against law enforcement for expressing his desire for improvement and bringing his personal experience to the subject 2 are relatively easy to dismiss. Sure, your boss spouting these beliefs is concerning and affects lives, but generally speaking, the impact is relatively small compared to legislators and Lt. Governors. But it seems there is no consequence for these blatant displays of hatred and ignorance.
The past year, and the rise of Trump, has brought bigotry out of hiding, and thank God for it — at least there’s no escaping what we’re dealing with now. The election of Obama sparked a racist backlash that has now fully flowered into a political campaign explicitly centered around the idea of taking America back for white people. Online, on television, and in real life, we are living in their coming-out party. And they have no reason to hide, because there seem to be no penalties or repercussions for hatred.
For the sake of argument, even if we were to placate the bigots and make the equivalent of the Business Case 3 for concern over police overreach, there is plenty to be concerned about. As Justice Sotomayor wrote in her recent dissenting opinion:
We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere.
The fundamental idealogical building block of this nation is that power should be checked 5 When America’s citizens are asking for for protection of their rights it is too often interpreted as an anti-police or anti-government instead of anti-current modus operandi of police and government. And so we see some police officers essentially refusing to do their jobs. What is more, the actions of rogue lunatics is with it even more backlash. As the great Greg Howard wrote:
And every incident, no matter how isolated, that takes the life of an officer — when Micah Johnson fires on Dallas police as they watch over a peaceful protest, when Ismaaiyl Brinsley bused in to New York to ambush police officers in their cruiser — brings with it the risk that all blacks will face the wrath of the state’s fear and retaliation, as officers scramble to “regain control” of the local population. This is seen as just, supported by the conceit that black citizens brought this upon themselves. The aggressive posture of the police, the fear that every man reaching for a wallet may be reaching for his weapon, only deepens. And everyone insisting on black citizens’ rights — to life, to due process, even to bear arms — is blamed for instigating violence against the police.
The ‘specific cadence’ of shootings has made it easier to capture on death video. And the wide availability of video seems like a step toward a solution – we want cops wearing body cameras etc – the resulting collection of black people being shot to death has become a ‘genre’, as Ezekiel Kweku discussed in his MTV essay:
I have not become resigned to the deaths of black people at the hands of police officers, but I have become desensitized to watching videos of these deaths happen. It does not pierce my skin. The pain of watching is instead a blunt object on numbed flesh, or the prodding of scar tissue.
Technology has afforded us new ways to bring awareness to these issues but awareness isn’t enough. Kara Brown:
I can continue to vote and go to protests and sign petitions and donate money and get in arguments with racist white people. And I can write. I can write again and again for as long as the this nation piles up black bodies. But when you’ve just watched a man bleed to death after a routine traffic stop while a child sits in the back seat, it sure as hell doesn’t feel like much.
Ironically, change was (maybe) happening in the Dallas Police Department 6. Excessive force complaints were down, and training emphasized de-escalation.
It would seem that our Lt. Governor did not even learn the lesson that the DPD was trying to instill in its members: that with power, some patience and discretion is necessary. A man with so great a pulpit in this state should not rush headlong into such a ridiculous statement.
Whom you outweigh by about 100 lbs easy. ↩
As a black man he brings a particular perspective that is refreshing and useful. ↩
Making the Business Case is a euphemism for attempts at dispassionate utilitarianism. ↩
Do we even need to say they do not deserve to die? Life is an unalienable right. That is the whole entire point here. ↩
I mean, beside slavery and the moral and legal superiority of the Protestant, Landowning Male. ↩
I say ‘maybe’ because, as the article notes, there are some questions and possible third variables here. ↩