The Black and Blue Division
Sorry if you thought this might be a blog post about footballs NFC’s North division. This one is a different black and blue, and that is Black Lives Matter and Cops supporting Blue Lives Matter. It is a very touchy subject for me as I have many family members that are police, and myself considered applying for the FBI at one point in my life, and so I am empathetic to their safety and concerns. On the other hand I went to a university that had a high black population and took a racism class that really opened my eyes as to how important the BLM movement is for proper a justice system for black Americans (almost every kid in the class lost someone to gun violence). The idea to be presented is that both cops and BLM are going about this issue in ways that won’t help any of them obtain their cause: police safety and a proper justice system for black Americans. So please be warned before reading on, both groups will be critiqued here, as this is not an anti-police or anti-BLM piece but an anti-violence piece.
When it comes to Black Lives Matter, they have a very valid reason for being upset, statistics overwhelmingly show that the justice system works against them in disproportionate numbers, and I have written about this in the past so you can read about it here. When it comes to cops and them supporting Blue Lives Matter, they have a valid concern as well, as their profession is very dangerous and split second decisions is what separates them from being shot and killed, or coming home to their families at the end of a shift. The problem that comes from this is that both sides tend to view one another as being against them, when in fact both are fighting for lesser violence.
In the 1960’s the Civil Rights Movement fought against obvious and overt racism from the justice system, and were able to get laws passed that helped the issue in a variety of ways. What both sides need to realize is that things have changed, but in a much more hidden way (overt racism has been replaced by implicit racism, read about this difference here), and both sides are trying to fight this issue with old antiquated methods (disruptive protests, and adding more diversity). These methods aren’t going to bring cops and BLM together, they are just going to provide more reason to divide and avoid understanding. We have politicians and media that do that for us, there is no reason why we should help them accomplish this.
Implicit racism is something social scientists refer to as the inherent stereotype in each and every one of us. It is a phenomena that actually makes us human, the ability to stereotype, the ability to decipher what is safe and what is dangerous based on appearances. We all do this with races, with dangerous objects, with people from a specific country or religion, so on and so on. No one is immune from this because it is how our brains work and partly how we learn. What we can do to help reduce its effects is become aware of it and to recondition ourselves to not see other races, and such as inherently dangerous to us. Because in those split second life altering decisions that cops have to make, that inherent stereotype is going to come to effect one’s decision making, it is unavoidable.
When it comes to disruptive protests by BLM, it is the story of a desperate and impassioned people doing what they think will help them accomplish their goals. Instead what it does do is bring frustration and annoyance to those they are trying to make aware of the issue, and more importantly it causes police to strengthen an us vs. them mentality, strengthening group identity and favoritism towards in-group members. I am in no way against protesting to make people aware of your cause, and I have done it in the past with Occupy Wall St., and what morphed from that, was a movement that resulted in people getting elected, that was empathetic to their causes. The protests need to evolve into an organized political movement (like OWS), otherwise they will end up alienating police and people like me sympathetic to police. They also need to stop demonizing cops, the large majority of cops are excellent people and heroic in what they do, and by being violent or aggressive towards them, isn’t going to garner sympathy, especially from police, the group they need to gain sympathy from.
As for police, the response to promote Blue Lives Matter is one that makes sense to them, as many of the instances BLM protests against, occur when cops feel it is reasonable to respond with deadly force, which they are trained to do (like I said above strengthening us vs. them mentalities). But what this movement does is only try to tell BLM that blue lives matter more than black lives, while all lives matter and we should always be promoting that, the reason why BLM is a movement is because statistics show us something wrong is occurring here. When people promote breast cancer awareness does one think it is wise to counter it with ovarian cancer awareness? What normally happens is that people recognize that breast cancer awareness is important and that something should be done about it, they don’t ignore it and counter it with another movement. That is what the BLM movement is trying to tell people, not that all lives don’t matter, but that black lives are statistically disproportionate to others when it comes to police killings (actually Native Americans have it worse). It is very similar to a triage situation, you treat the people that are most prone to this happening and try to fix that issue.
Without trying to pretend to know all the answers I felt it would be prudent to mention that I think are possible first steps in helping bridge this divide. What both sides need to do is attack the issues that are causing this and not attack each other by dismissing their causes. For BLM they need to address poverty, and support candidates that will help reduce inequality on the federal level, the typical democratic and republican candidates typically don’t address this aggressively enough, or can’t address it because of an inability to gain popular support for it. This can be addressed with becoming more organized at the local level and building this political support from the bottom up. For police they need to hold fellow officers more accountable and have the state use specially assigned prosecutors to handle grand jury cases to avoid conflict of interest while using local prosecutors. There are some other “hot button” policies that can address this issue as well but I wanted to avoid those and focus on ones that both sides could accomplish quite easily with a little bit of organization and cooperation, and not jump into things that could cause a further divide on this.