Archive - Jul 11, 2016

What We Value

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Memo to Blue Lives Matter types: YEAH, IT'S COVERED.

It took a weekend of headlines in my newsfeed to finally pin down the uneasy feeling whenever I heard about Blue Lives Matter, especially when it gets enshrined into law. Which is obviously not the same as being comfortable or happy with cops getting shot, but despite it being obvious it apparently needs to be said these days.

But the thing is, if this weekend has taught us anything, it's that we, as a culture, all know blue lives matter.

In the wake of Dallas, every media on the planet felt compelled to make sure we felt as sad as possible by telling us all kinds of nice things about the murdered cops. Which, you know, great. Totally deserved. It's sad that one of them just got married, it's all very, very sad. But the fact is, very few people in our society get that kind of hagiography if a nutjob kills them. The Orlando victims didn't, for example.

Compare that with Black Lives Matter. The victims of excessive force by police don't get a hagiography. I don't think there's a word for the opposite of a hagiography, but that's what they get. Whenever there's a questionable police shooting, a certain subset of people loftily declare that they're "waiting for more information", which means "waiting for Bill O'Reilly to report something that I can use to not give a shit about the victim and convince themselves that The System Works.

And the fact is, one of the ways you know whether lives matter to a society is how you treat them after they've been lost. That's why we don't need a Famous Lives Matter movement, or a Politician's Lives Matter movement, or, except in the middle of a war, a Soldier's Lives Matter movement. The lack of a movement doesn't mean those lives don't matter, it just means we don't need a movement to tell at least half of us that they do.

The other difference between innocent blue lives and innocent black lives that the Dallas shooting perfectly demonstrates is that why lives are targeted can tell you a lot about how much they matter.

The fact is, black people are routinely killed by police because it's easier than actually evaluating the threat of the situation. A lot of what's happening isn't individual racist cops out to kill black people (though there's way more of that out there than there should be), but the horrifying intersection of a police culture that says if you hesitate to use deadly force on a threat, you'll die, and a police culture that assumes black people are by definition a threat.

This is how "reaching for" becomes a capital crime. Because its easier, it's safer, to just kill anyone who might be a threat than take a chance that they are. And if that's not a matter that blue lives consider blue lives to matter way more than black lives, I don't know what is. There's a reason it's called "Black Lives Matter" and not "Stop Racist Cops".

Targeting cops is just as wrong as targeting minorities, but that doesn't make them the same thing. When cops are targeted, they're targeted specifically BECAUSE blue lives matter. Those lives hold an important position in society, and taking them sends a specific message as a result. Still abhorrent, still unacceptable, but not evidence that blue lives don't matter, or that we need laws or a movement to reinforce that they matter.

All of this, of course, is separate from the deliberate attempts by many to use phrases like "blue lives matter" and "all lives matter" to dilute and steal the power of the BLM movement so that society's hierarchy of who and what we choose to value remains intact. But we all knew that was going on.