Today, a very good friend of mine from Louisiana asked a good question. On her page she queried:
For those who are fighting on the side of BLM, why is there no fight and no mention when a black police officer is killed in the line of duty? I have noticed this for YEARS and it has bothered me for years. If all black lives matter, why is it only an issue when the life lost is at the hands of a LEO but not for FOR a LEO.
Now let’s be honest, that’s a pretty courageous question to ask during these times of stressful discussions of and fights about racial equity in America. Add in the factor that she asked this on social media where there are no shortage of troll and other asses – bravo my friend. Bravo.
I tried to answer her as best as I could. I said that It is important to move away from the fallacy that #BlackLivesMatter the movement is the same as Black Lives Matter the organization. It can be argued that those were the same when Trayvon was murdered. But as time has passed, it is no longer the same … it’s clouded, but there is a difference.
I can’t speak about Black Lives Matter the organization. I can speak about the movement. When the news reports that a black officer has been killed, there is mourning and disappointment. The key in that statement is “when the news reports.” Now why don’t they report it?
I think of two reasons. One, most LEO’s are white. Most departments will reflect the population of the areas they serve and many of these areas are not majority people of color. The pure numbers of officers out there will produce more incidents with white officers than with black officers.
Secondly, it’s all about the ratings and it’s all about the Benjamin’s. Headlines pointing to black officers being in position of power (unless they’re failing) or being killed in the line of duty aren’t as eye catching as stories of white officers killing minorities.
I was speaking with a colleague of mine who lobbies for journalists and she admitted that is a big issue that her industry needs to work on. They are trying … but individual journalists and editors are still their own people who still have to report to their bosses and are still responsible for bring in revenues for their company (or stock holders if a publicly traded company) and change, as we continue to see, is slow to come.
Yes #BlackLivesMatter the movement is calling for a change in the culture of police departments that allows for action of more than a few bad apples. They are also defending white people who are brutalized by LEO’s as well (see the elderly man in Buffalo as an example). Violence against black men is what triggered the movement but many of us encompass all victims of brutal actions.
Additionally, #BlackLivesMatter is focused on more than just LEO’s. We are trying to bring attention to multiple areas where black Americans have been damaged/oppressed. I argue that many of our generation’s thoughts on #BlackLivesMatter started when we paid attention to a scene in the Boyz N The Hood. No … not the one where Ricky got shot (SPOILER ALERT). But the one where Laurence Fishburne starts talking about gentrification of the the hood. He expanded the discussion into systematic racism with these words:
“I know every time you turn on the TV that’s what you see. Black people selling the rock. Pushing the rock. Pushing the rock. Yeah, I know. But that wasn’t a problem as long as it was here. It wasn’t a problem until it was in Iowa and it showed up on Wall Street where there are hardly any Black people. Now, if you want to talk about guns, why is it there’s a gun store on almost every corner in this community? I’ll tell you why. For the same reason there’s a liquor store on almost every corner in this community. Why? Because they want us to kill ourselves. You go out to Beverly Hills you don’t see that shit! But they want us to kill ourselves. Yeah, the best way you can destroy a people is you take away their ability to reproduce themselves.”
I took me five viewings of that movie to recognize how important this scene was. Looking at the pattern of mortgages approved in this nation, looking at the pattern of small business loans approved in this nation to black own businesses (only 10% of the latest Payroll Protection Act grants and loans were given to minority and woman owned/operated businesses), looking at the range of sentences given to black convicts compared to white convicts of the same crime and similar circumstances … that’s a huge huge part of why I call for #BlackLivesMatter too.
And it in that last sentence is a word that many people are forgetting is the unsaid part of our call. “Too”. It’s not the word “only”, it’s not the word “more”, it’s the word “too”.
Admittedly, I rambled a bit here, but I hope it helps folks understand there’s a difference between #BlackLivesMatter … the movement and Black Lives Matter the organization. And that the movement encompasses your fellow LEO’s, the good apples, black and white and otherwise, who are killed in the line of duty.