There has been a lot of news reporting of police killings lately, and across social media, many people have been promoting the #bluelivesmatter or #policelivesmatter hashtags as a means of bringing awareness to the issue. These hashtags are an attempt to mimic, usurp and discredit the #blacklivesmatter movement, and stand as not only a complete misunderstanding of what the Black Lives Matter movement is about, but are also indicative of a false narrative being played out by politicians and the media which suggests that there is an epidemic of police officers being murdered across America.
In fact, police deaths while on duty are actually lower than at the same time last year, and the annual numbers have been declining across the past couple of decades. But aside from the false notion that being a police officer in America is more dangerous than ever before, the use of a “blue lives matter” hashtag is problematic because it represents a fundamentally flawed way of looking at a movement like Black Lives Matter.
First of all, the Black Lives Matter movement is not about suggesting that other lives don’t matter. People who are quick to suggest that #alllivesmatter also make this same critical mistake in categorizing the BLM movement as one that puts black lives above others. The BLM movement is merely trying to suggest that there is a problem of disproportionate police violence and aggression carried out against blacks that is under-reported in the media and ignored by the public. The idea is not that black lives matter more, but simply that society undervalues black lives in comparison to others, as demonstrated by instances like the deaths of Eric Garner or Sandra Bland, or a plethora of other cases in which minor infractions somehow resulted in people dying either at the hands of police or while in police custody.
Second of all, using a hashtag to say that police lives matter, in the context of something like the Black Lives Matter movement, is suggesting that the media and public ignore the instances when police officers are killed on duty. Which is an insult to our collective intelligence. When a police officer is injured or killed while on the job, there is already massive public outcry and the efforts to apprehend the suspects in those cases exceeds the efforts that are usually undertaken when the victim is an ordinary citizen. How many times have we heard the expression “a manhunt is underway” when a police officer is murdered? Compare that to the way regular cases are handled. Look at the funeral processions that are run to honor fallen officers. In addition, the punishments for cop killers are far harsher than those for the average person. The bottom line is that there is no shortage of sympathy or attention given to victims of violence when the subject is a police officer.
The killing of police officers is tragic and should be something that we pay attention to. So, yes, of course, in a literal sense, police lives matter. But so does knowing the truth in the face of hysteria and misinformation, and not succumbing to the ignorance that is spread by those who want to discredit a valid political movement that is trying to highlight a very real problem in America.
Photo credit – Pixabay.com/BruceEmmerling