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” runs 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?