One American Asks: Which Lives Matter?

Police crime scene after a shooting.
Police crime scene after a shooting.

Which lives matter to you?

You can support the hard and dangerous work of police officers, and be truly grateful (as I am) for what they do right, and still have the moral conscience and mental acuity to acknowledge that we have a social problem when the quickest impulse and default acceptable solution to any movement by a Black person is to shoot him dead.

If we can bring down an Afghani bomber and get him to trial alive, or subdue a White man who has opened fire on police by using bean bag bullets -- just two examples from recent days -- then surely a Black man with his hands in the air doesn't have to be shot dead. But that is what happened to Terence Crutcher.

We have to do better than "he wasn't cooperative" as permission to kill. If actual criminals can routinely be subdued with non-lethal force; so can merely suspected criminals.

It isn't enough to eternally hide behind the idea that "cops have only a split-second to act," which can be true but which was measurably not true in this case, or in so many cases every single year. Even when it is true, there should be more options in the officers' mental arsenals for what to fill those seconds with.

Defuse, disarm, de-escalate, even incapacitate -- those tools most often come first for women, white people, and even people of color in groups that society has deemed "safe." They need to be the tools with which we approach Black men too.

Mr. Crutcher was coming home from class on his way to his wife and children when his car broke down. There is no death penalty for that. Maybe he was confused or upset and seemed unwell. There is no death penalty for that. Hands in the air doesn't strike you as compliant enough? There is no death penalty for that either. Walking or fumbling? No again.

If Officer Shelby was trained to believe shooting to kill is her only recourse when feeling "something" might happen -- when facing a man whose hands were in the air, even while she had fellow officers at her side -- then heaven help us all, but especially heaven help Black men.

If your first instinct is to just brush this tragedy away because it makes you feel disloyal to police to entertain any desire for improvement, then you aren't honoring police (who you feel are beyond growth) any more than you are showing concern for your fellow Americans' safety.

As an America with a police chief uncle and a daughter of color, this much I know: You can be pro-police, humane, and just all at once. You can expect better of your country. You must. And if you don't, then you cannot truly claim any lives matter, Black or blue.