Black and Blue Lives Matters

            Black Lives Matter is a movement in opposition to the perceived excessive brutality used by the police against people, especially men, of color. The reason for the movement is pretty clear; unarmed Black men are routinely killed by police. Even undercover Black police officers are sometimes killed by their White peers who mistake them for a perpetrator rather than a brother in blue. This is because, as Bryan Stevenson has so brilliantly demonstrated in his book Just Mercy, when it comes to Black people there is a presumption of guilt rather than a presumption of innocence.

            So, what is the purpose of Blue Lives Matter? Blue Lives Matter is Jim Crow in sheep's clothing. The attempt to create an equivalence between Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter is disingenuous. While police officers do die in the line of duty, a job they willingly undertook as opposed to people who were drafted into the military, Blue Lives Matter implies that their lives are not valued in the same way as Black people's lives are not valued. If a police officer suddenly decides that being a police officer carries a higher risk than she or he is willing to take, they can always remove the uniform and find another job.

            Black people do not have the option of ceasing to be Black. Furthermore, there are no eleven, thirteen or fourteen-year-old police officers. So, Blue Lives Matter is just another tactic in the traditional role of the police as enforcers of unequal and unfair treatment of Black Americans.

            Black people were slaves until a century and a half ago. Then, there was a hundred years of Jim Crow, denial of voting rights, terrorism in the form of lynchings, unjust and biased prosecution, segregation and job discrimination, especially in the South. While Black people are sometimes killed by police without cause, police are insulated from the consequences of their actions by a panoply of laws that allow them to claim fear, an unquantifiable and untestable entity,  as a justification for the use of lethal force.

            When police do get injured or killed, the public automatically provides pensions and death benefits for the officer. If Black people are killed or injured by the police by accident, incompetence or malice, they have to prove malfeasance by the officer by suing in a court, a remedy beyond the means of most of the poor people who are overwhelmingly the victims of police misconduct.

            Anyone who doubts the accuracy of the above analysis (and even those who don't) should read Just Mercy, A story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Get it on audio (available on Audible) being read by the author. It will change your life.

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf