Saying Blue Lives Matter Won't Protect Police

Blue light flasher atop of a police car. City lights on the background.
Blue light flasher atop of a police car. City lights on the background.

I learned in marriage counseling that if I win an argument and my wife feels small and diminished in any way then we both lose because I am connected to her. If she leaves our interactions feeling hurt, there is no winning for me. Similarly, if my brothers and sisters and sisters from Mexico and Central America are facing deportation back to violence and abuse then we as Black Americans don't win. If my Native brothers and sisters are languishing on reservations I can't celebrate just because I got mine for my people and then seek to protect "us" from "them" at all costs. There is no party, no hurray. I must as a follower of Jesus seek the flourishing of those around me, especially those most vulnerable. So if that is my posture and I can grieve the deaths of murdered police officers and the violence that pervades majority white America then it is exponentially hurtful that White Americans and those others buy into the false war between Blue folks and Black folks.

Now, a common response when someone says "Black Lives Matter" is the retort "Blue Lives Matter". This phrase is purely a tool to win an argument. It is not meant to empower, protect or reconcile anyone - especially law enforcement to hurting and wounded communities. It is said loudly and repeatedly to win, to shout down, to move-on, to look over here instead. It is a knee-jerk reaction rooted in fear of the loss of power and control. It sustains the narrative of white supremacy and says to those who benefit from the status quo "you are more valuable than those who don't". And we must silence those seeking to disrupt this "way of life" - even other Americans. Those who say "Blue Lives Matter" must squash those who seek to "take their freedom" because America isn't safe anymore and Black folks, Native Americans, and immigrants from Asia and Latin America need to just work harder - or go back to where we came from.

Sadly, instead of building a bridge for black and brown people to trust law enforcement, it further pushes us to the margins. And so the compassion competition begins for "us" to be noticed at the expense of "them" - giving even more nourishment to the model minority myth that turns a blind eye to the lynching of Chinese, abuse of South Asians and mass deportations in our country's history. Moreover, "Blue Lives Matter" and the subsequent mentions of Black on Black crime is a convoluted way of saying shut up, this violence is somehow our own fault. If we just behaved ourselves, then the cops wouldn't shoot us. If we just had more home training, this wouldn't be a problem. And now the violence against police is our fault too because an assertion of our inherent value through shouting Black Lives Matter is what caused someone to shoot and kill police officers; and not the killing of black and brown bodies that caused shooters to undoubtedly feel isolated and disposable. That is BS and you know what those two letters together mean.

First, being Black is an ethnic identity. No one born another race will ever be Black. Similarly, we who are Black American won't ever be anything else. Sorry, #transracial is not a thing.

On the contrary, being a police officer is an occupation. It is a choice and since the beginning of this country, law enforcement has been protected and cared for institutionally. To say "Blue Lives Matter" does not cause me as a Black American to feel included. It communicates to me that either I am important and should get on the bus or I am unimportant and this bus is going to run me over. And round and around we go. The subtext is "Blue Lives" matter more than Black Lives so just go back to being invisible.

Instead of being able to say that the person behind that badge is someone made in the image of God who has inherent value beyond their occupation, I should yield to them in all circumstances and seek to see them flourish because the state has sanctioned their value to be higher than mine. Because to kill him or her means capital punishment and to kill me is too costly for an indictment; sometimes even an investigation.

Now you might say, "Jonathan, saying Black Lives Matter won't protect black people either." And you would be wrong. We are actually counting the number of folks killed by police and the cities doing the right things - moving from warrior to community policing to name just one example - are gaining attention. And that helps all lives, not just Black ones.

When you say Blue Lives Matter you're saying that Black Lives don't because no one says Blue Lives Matter unless you're shouting down people fighting against police brutality and abuse of power. And when you say Black Lives Matter you're saying you want to see an end to police violence and a change in the assumed dangerousness of black and brown people along with accountability for law enforcement for using excessive force.

Blue Lives Matter is about retaliation and the Black Lives Matter Movement is about empowerment. And similar to the interactions with my wife. I may "feel" attacked when she invites me to consider how I've wronged her. But in reality she is stating how I've violated her values and the covenant we have to one another. Communities of color in America and those who are impoverished who regularly suffer under law enforcement that is supposed to protect and serve them is pointing out that that is not what's happening. We are not being protected, we are not treated equally and we certainly are not served. And until law enforcement and those in power chant Black Lives Matter and come alongside communities of color to acknowledge the pain, suffering and death there will be more murders. Not because there have to be but because sadly, those on the margins don't know what else to do.

Right now the humanity of Black Americans and communities of color is invisible to law enforcement and just because we desire to stand in the light like law enforcement does not mean that there isn't enough light for you to. Until the image of God is seen in the person with dark skin and he/she behind the badge we will continue to wake up to murder and violence and we have no one to blame but ourselves.