Home > Daily life > #copslivesmatter


Of course they do. Cops’ lives matter, white lives matter, lives in general matter. No one argues otherwise, it goes without saying, there is consensus. But trotting out these pieties whenever someone says that black lives matter is idiotic. Because that definitely does not go without saying. No way does it go without saying. Black lives may matter but other lives matter much more. Since the cop killing in Dallas—once again an infamous city—anyone saying “black lives matter” instead of “all lives matter” di Blasioruns the risk of being accused of heartlessness or even glee at a sick tit for tat.

If black lives matter, there is a caveat. It all depends on who is standing on the other side, of whether that individual yelling brutal, incomprehensible orders in a situation suddenly gone awry wears a uniform, holds a gun, dislikes the color of the skin of the guy who was selling cigarettes or CDs on the street, wearing a hoodie, supposedly driving around with a broken tail light, daring to talk back and argue, playing with a toy gun, reaching for something, running away for no reason. (No reason? Being black is reason enough. Any black person will tell you that. Any black parent who doesn’t know if their child stepping out of the house will ever be back or if they’ll have to go to the morgue to pick up a bullet-ridden corpse can tell you that. Any black person pulled over for the slightest reason will tell you that.)

Do we need cops? Do they protect communities, are they often in danger, do they accomplish incredible acts of courage and valor? Absolutely. Every day, as well as in exceptional circumstances. Think of their response on September 11, running into burning towers to save survivors. Think of their rushing toward the place where shots were coming from near Dealy Plaza the other day while the crowd was fleeing away from it. Think of the myriad other instances where they do what they were trained to do and put themselves in harm’s way. I do and am grateful for that. But this is a profession they chose. This is what they are supposed to do.

Nothing justifies their racist murder spree, the rising numbers of blacks killed by mostly white cops. Hillary Clinton can euphemistically mention “bias” in our society. (Where would we be without euphemisms!) The truth is this is a profoundly, deeply racist country. Did I hear someone protest and say that not everyone is racist? Of course not everyone is racist. But a cop who starts shooting at a black individual in circumstances where he wouldn’t dream of doing the same thing with a white individual is racist through and through, as racist as those slave owners, as racist as those lynchers, as racist as those KKK members, as racist as the small-town white trash who tortured and killed Emmett Till. Those dark times are still very much with us. We may have had a Martin Luther King and marches for civil rights, we may have elected a black President–twice–we may hear more and more voices raised in anger against white cop brutality. None of that has changed our inherent and deeply rooted racism.

Murderous cops and their departments and their supporters will say otherwise. They’ll be offended by the indignation of the public at large, by the liberal media, by officials daring to voice a mild rebuke and instantly told off—look at the wall of cop backs greeting Mayor Di Blasio or the outraged police union response to Minnesota Governor Dayton’s statement after the Philando Castile murder on the heels of that of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge.

What is not racist about these murders? What is not racist about the police feeling insulted and closing ranks? What is not racist about the impunity with which these men kill (with their extraordinary usual excuse that they felt “threatened”) knowing that they will never be prosecuted, brought to justice in any way or even blamed?




Categories: Daily life
  1. July 11, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Excellent thoughtful analysis, Saideh!


  2. Jonathan Agronsky
    July 12, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Thoughtful, well-written, and provocative, as always, Saideh. However, I don’t think that Americans are any more “racist” (an ugly word, which works both ways, incidentally) than the citizens of any other country. Perhaps if you substituted the word “outrageous” for “racist”, your column would be a little more healing/forgiving.


    • July 12, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Jonathan. I don’t believe this country is more racist than others, however we have an ugly history with slavery and that makes all the difference. Anyway, my purpose is not to be healing or forgiving but to state things starkly. I don’t believe in healing when the wounds are this fresh; as for forgiving and forgiveness in general, I’ve always found it just the other side of indifference. We’re the ones who feel good when we forgive, not the victims. One forgives when forgiveness is asked, not when people shrug and move on after committing a crime, not when their peers “understand.” Also, yes, racism is an ugly word that we shouldn’t be afraid of using to describe an ugly state of affairs. As I say in the post, euphemisms don’t cut it. But again, thank you for being such a faithful reader and always taking the time to comment.


  3. July 12, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    You are right that the assertion that “Black Lives Matter” is not a denial that other lives matter too. Even Newt Gingrich openly concedes that it is “dangerous to be black in America.” But it also is true that black lives are far more often threatened by criminals, often black criminals, than by police.

    The legacy of four centuries of slavery tragically continues to fester in America. But if a black suspect (usually male) is shot by police, it does not necessarily reflect racial bias of police. More often, it reflects persistent racial disparities that permeate society more broadly that lead many black youth down dangerous roads through hazardous environments.

    “According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in 2013 non-Hispanic black males accounted for 37% of the total male prison population, non-Hispanic whites 32%, and Hispanic males 22%.”

    Given the high probability that black males are involved in criminal activity and criminal justice system, their relationship with police is bound to be fraught. Some 25-30% of the people shot by police are black, while blacks are 13% of the total US population. That looks like racial bias. But 70% of the people shot by police are not black, and half are white. A random white person is far less likely to be shot by police than a random black person. But a black person is far more likely to be involved in crime or the criminal justice system than a white person. The rate at which a black person is involved in a violent encounter with police is on a par with the rate at which blacks are involved in crime and criminal justice activity generally. Statistics would lead even a dispassionate robo-cop to conclude that a young black male is more likely to be a criminal suspect than others.

    The larger involvement of blacks in the criminal justice system, and prisons, is spawned from its own and a broader web of social disparities. Blacks are more likely to be poor, worse educated, and less able to defend themselves or afford effective legal counsel.

    So calling cops racist is not generally true and misses more important points.

    Rather, Dallas Police Chief David Brown (who is African-American) gets closer to the heart of the matter:

    “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country, We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem; let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”


  4. carol gilhooley
    July 14, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Well put, Lewis Perelman. I, too, agree with Chief David Brown. And, although your stated purpose, Saideh, is not to “be healing or forgiving, but to state things starkly” perhaps the times call for a different tone. Continuing to retreat into battle lines and to perpetuate divisive talk – on both sides of the issue – will not bring us to a better place. Perhaps we all need to talk less and listen more. Perhaps then we can all be on the same side – the side against violence in all its ugly forms.


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