Trevor Noah of the Daily Show said it perfectly last week, “You shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens that they are sworn to protect.”
Supporting Black Lives Matter, caring about the countless black men and women who have had their lives taken from them unnecessarily at the hands of police does not make you “anti-police”.
What happened to the police officers in Dallas is a tragedy, what happened to Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and countless other black people in this country is also a tragedy.
Black people in America need to be able to trust the police. They need the security of knowing that if they are in danger they have someone sworn to protect their lives that they can call, and that that person isn’t just going to throw them in jail or worse, that they’re not going to end up like so many others – gone too soon.
The police as a whole are not our enemies, but a system that perpetuates biases, protects murderers and then arms them, is a system antithetical to the progression and survival of black America.
People can make the point about black on black crime all they want. I could counter with a ton of facts on the grim realties of the effects of cyclical poverty, racism, underfunding of schools and after school activities, PTSD, the joblessness rate among black youth and mass incarceration that creates and perpetuates violence in certain black communities…but in some ways that’d be missing the point.
Our community is trying to tackle those issues. We want better schools; we want counseling for drugs and the mental disorders brought on by witnessing violent crime starting at an early age; we want jobs; and we want to stop funneling our youth into prisons instead of higher education.
We’re asking for all of that… but right now we’re also asking that government sanctioned public servants not be allowed to gun us down in the streams with impunity, and frankly I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
When someone can get shot by the government for the crime of driving while black, and then the perpetrator faces no real charges for it, we have a serious problem in our criminal justice system. When you deny, minimize, or deflect the nation’s attention from this system then you become part of that problem.
We can grieve for the blue lives lost in Dallas, and for the black lives taken by police; we can respect the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve, while still fighting the harassment that black men and women deal with on a daily basis while interacting with the law enforcement officers.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Black Lives Matter movement is going to face an uphill battle following the tragedy in Dallas. There are many who will blame the rhetoric of some of the members for the act of violence against police. However, those who would blame black people for grieving their losses and asking for legal justice, which those killed were never provided, are the real issue.
Trust in the police starts with accountability, not denial. It starts with the knowledge that if a police officer kills someone without real justification they will not be shielded by the very same legal system that unfairly targets black Americans. There is no war on cops, there is a war on racism, there is a war on hatred, there is a war on violence, and finally there is a war on intentional ignorance.
Remaining ignorant is no longer an option in an age when a video of police brutality can be live streamed to the Internet. So don’t denounce a peaceful movement that only requests that black lives be given equal value in this country, while simultaneously voting against regulating guns that have a reputation for gunning down officers in the street.
This false choice created between caring about the black and brown lives in this country and the lives of officers, only serves to hurt people on all sides.
We need trust, we need accountability, we need community investment that goes beyond policing, and we need to fundamentally change the narrative on this issue.