An acronym that has recently gained prominence on social media is “ACAB.” Although it stands for “All cops are bastards” the words are unfortunately misleading, as it refers not to individual police officers but to a system that needs more internal controls and oversight on hiring, on incidences of excessive force and on training so that the default option is not murder. Those who say all protestors loot and burn and counteract the statistics that most protestors are peaceful with the retort, “but you say all police are bad,” are misguided in their judgments. Protestors who are calling for police reform want to make it better, not criticize all police or abolish their jobs. The other commonly referenced point is that there should be more emphasis on “black on black crime” rather than on criticizing police officers. Black on black crime is a serious problem but is not racially motivated unlike the legal accusations leveled against many police officers. Black on black crime is a systemic issue rising from a complex array of factors, from residential segregation, poor nutrition, inadequate access to health care, etc. It is possible to work on those systemic issues while, in a separate context, reforming the police system.
Additionally, in “black on black” crime, the justice is often swift, from arrests to indictment to prosecution, and resulting in stricter sentencing, compared to that given in police brutality. The same can be said in response to references of African-American males murdering white males. The rates of this are brought up in a “whataboutism” situation, as if all kinds of murders occur and there is no reason to focus simply on African-American lives. Hence the term “All lives matter.” But the justice, again, in cases where African-Americans are accused of murdering whites is very different in outcome to what happens in police officers murder African-American men. “Black on White” crime often results in the black person getting punished to the maximum extent allowed by the law. As ABC news reported, “Black men are 19.1 percent more likely to serve longer sentences.” That means they committed the same crimes, but have longer sentences.
This while Breonna Taylor’s killers, Elijah McClain’s killer, Trayvon Martin’s killer, and dozens of others, are free in this country. All lives DO matter, but right now, it is ok to focus on the groups that need help. Right now we are all saying black lives matter because they do not have equal rights, not because they deserve more rights than others. It’s basic addition; black lives plus all other lives equals all lives, but black lives still hasn’t gotten into the equation yet, because so many people won’t let them. What I am trying to say is: Sometimes we need to bend to the level of those who don’t support us in order to make our voices heard.
Rioters and looters that are burning down Targets and other businesses are technically committing crimes, but many supporters of the BLM movement are saying that it’s okay because they helped build this country. I don’t agree with that. Not only are illegal activities wrong, but those perpetrating those actions may not realize people will confound their illegal actions with the legal and egalitarian goals of the #BLM movement. One unnecessarily and unfortunately becomes equated with the other.
We need everyone to make sure we make a legal impact that changes the discrimination endemic in the system towards POC. These changes and support are needed not just for them and for all society, but the plight of POC are the impetus, not the only or end goal as “all lives matter” implies it is. I find it disturbing when people say, “there are lots of good police officers.” The statement in itself implies that there are lots of bad ones, and we should focus on the good ones. What I say is that “police officers ARE good” but let’s make MORE of them “good” by changing the racism endemic in our society, by changing techniques that are taught to police officers (for example, the Eric Garnier law outlawed teaching of chokeholds to police officers), and by realizing that white privilege does not mean all white people are privileged, but that, in whatever situation they are in, they have more positive factors due to the color of their skin that a black person in the same situation would not have. The healthcare system is set up to minimize medical errors. If we saw a higher rate of medical errors perpetrated against POC, we wouldn’t just say, “There are lots of good doctors.” That is true, but not the point, and so it is the case with police officers.
Not being evil is not the same thing as being good at your job. If doctors were also denying treatment for POC, people would be scared to get help, in the way that POC now report often being afraid to call the police, approach the police, or be stopped by the police. We are in danger of losing even more innocent lives. These are the things #BLM is aiming to change. Their ideals and mission are not responsible for the actions of their believers any more than Christianity is responsible for the actions of the KKK, although KKK members will often allude to Christianity in justifying their actions. The current movement does not rest on much more than sadness and anger, and yet it should not rest on anything other than facts and a plan for change. Systemic protests and legal routes brought about LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, eight hour work days, and of course, free speech. It is time for the next step.