OK, I get it. Black lives do not matter to you. The message is loud and clear. The lives of Black fathers don’t matter. Black sisters don’t matter. Black teens don’t matter. Not even Black children matter to you. I accept this. I even give you permission to say it. You no longer have to hide your sentiments in platitudes and fake intellectualizations like “let’s wait to hear the facts before making a decision.” You can just come right out and say it. “Your lives do not matter to me.” I accept this.
What I don’t accept is the idea that you care about police lives. Because if you cared about police lives, you would recognize that each time an unarmed black person is killed by police, and each time you criminalize the victim rather than the perpetrator, and each time the racist bobbleheads go on TV and radio and refuse to offer even one ounce of sympathy for the victims, and each time the bigots troll the larger Black community on social media and call us monkeys and thugs while we are grieving, and each time people accuse us of pulling the race card when we say we live in fear that our husbands, or our mothers, or our daughters or our sons will be next, you put police officer lives at risk. It does not take a rocket scientist to predict that police officers will soon begin getting killed in retaliation. When it happens (again), it will be the fault of a police system that refuses to take responsibility for itself and individuals like you that refuse to demand change in the face of a crisis.
We are tired. We are angry. We are scared. The straw has broken the camel’s back.
You spend so much of your time worrying about radical Muslims, that you completely miss the fact that your and the police system’s refusal to publicly commit to an immediate end to police executions of Black people whose cars are broken down, whose tail lights are out, who are shopping for food in Walmart, who are playing in the park, who are simply being alive while being Black, is radicalizing Black people. I am a physician with specialties in psychiatry and addiction medicine. I’m an exceedingly positive person who can see the good in those who can’t even see it in themselves. I am a problem-solver and intellectual who thrives on finding solutions where there seem to be none. I have doctorate level skill in managing my emotions, my thoughts, my behavior and the behavior of others. So when I am so paralyzed by anger that the only phrase I can pull out of my physician-level vocabulary is fuck them, and when I am glaring at strangers in the street, and when my nine-year old son is hiding in the back of the car on the way to school because he is afraid a police officer will shoot him, and when my husband is posting on Facebook that he feels weak, denigrated and dehumanized in front of his sons, and when I am at work with tears in my eyes, and when I feel like I am going to scream if I hear one more person call for calm, know that this country is at a dangerous, dangerous tipping point. I am not alone. We are tired. We are angry. We are scared. The straw has broken the camel’s back.
Trust me, the majority of us desperately want calm to work. We are scrambling to find non-violent ways to make the system change. We fight to stay calm and yet our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters continue to be murdered. As a result, we come to the absolutely scary realization that staying calm may not be the answer.
So I come back to your false idea that you actually care about police lives. You don’t. Because if you did, you would demand the system to change before (more) good police, innocent men and women who go out each and every day and actually serve and protect, start regularly getting injured and killed in retaliation attacks. We don’t want that. And you have the power to prevent that. If you don’t, their injuries and their deaths will be on your hands.
As for me, I would love for your motivation for system change to be a sudden embrace of the idea that Black Lives Matter. But I know it won’t happen because our lives actually don’t matter to you. I accept it. That said, if police lives truly do matter to you, you should join us in demanding an immediate change in policing in this country. It will save Black lives and it will save police lives and all of us will have won.
Nzinga A. Harrison, M.D. is a Black woman, wife of a Black man and mother of two Black sons.