Everyone wants to protect those that they love, it’s human nature. But sometimes there is a fine line where over-protection does not help anyone and instead harms many. An officer of the law promises to not only protect but to “protect and serve” and perhaps its something that we should all keep in mind while standing up for those we love.
I happen to have many female friends whose husbands or boyfriends are police officers. I have stood mutely by as they have posted articles and statuses exalting their partners and their job. It’s more than just a job, it’s a culture. No one exalts the lifestyle of a plumber. They do this all year round and I silently snicker because I can’t believe that these men are as perfect as they sound. Not because they are police officers, but because they are humans. Perhaps I am overly cynical but I believe that what makes us endearing beings are that we multi-dimensional. When you read the over-the-top exaggerations of how perfect Kim Jong Il is, you know you cannot love such a being, he isn’t real.
To place anyone on such a pedestal is to do them a disservice, to view them as one-dimensional, to not admit they are human with the capacity to fail. To pretend someone is such a demigod on an individual level is worrisome enough but the culture of law enforcement takes it to the next level.
The whole profession seems to have created a bubble for itself that when one tries to point out bad policing practice, or a departmental failure, or god forbid, a flaw in the system itself , then you are perceived by the spouses and partners of any police officer, and officers themselves, to be attacking every single officer. This in turn leads to the offended cries of “Not me!”, ultimately feeding into the “Not all …” trope gripping other societal and cultural conflicts.
“Not all police officers!” “Not all white people!” “Not all slave owners!” “Not all men!” “Not all gamers!”
No one is arguing that all police officers are bad cops. The argument is, they are working in a system that has made it far too easy to jump to the wrong conclusions. I’m sure at times the police officers who have gunned down unarmed men of color seriously thought that they were in danger. But that is the very issue, this built-in, hardly perceptible, idea that because the figure in front of them is black that the chances that object they are reaching for is a gun is higher than if it was a white man. It is, dare I say it?, yes, it is racism. It is ingrown and subconscious but it is a legacy that has been instilled into our culture and society and especially into our policing structure.
Now I am white, and I do not have any police officers as close relations. The closest I have is an uncle that is a General and Doctor in the Army Reserves. Yet I cannot say I am unbiased because I chose the side of the protesters long ago. I reject the idea that police officers generally work in ways that protect my interest. I cannot vote on their actions and I do not commend their work in most arenas. So I’m sure this invalidates my opinions in many of your eyes because I “have it out” for your loved ones. But hear me out. They chose that work knowing full well the risks it could entail. That does not mean they deserve any danger that comes to them while on the clock and I do not wish it upon them. And I cannot fully comprehend how you feel waiting for him to come back from his shift but I do know that many mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, girlfriends, and wives are feeling the same way every time their loved one walks out the door to go anywhere. Men who did not chose to put themselves in harm’s way, men who could not control the color of their skin.
“Blue” lives matter, certainly, but we do not need to be reminded of that constantly because they are not being targeted on a mass scale. One of the most common issues I run into while discussing the relationships between men and women is the ignoring of the systematic power structure set in place. The Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Movement have been compared endlessly and there are many, many differences but the primary similarities is the existence of a power structure. It comes into play in many ways. Some white people don’t understand why they can be called “cracker” and yet cannot call blacks the n-word. There is no history of oppression in the word cracker. A woman can’t catcall a man in the same way a man can a woman because there isn’t a history of violence and statistical evidence that makes a man fear for his safety when a strange woman talks to him on the street.
Lindy West from Jezebel, in a recent article I read, put it nicely,
Being cognizant of and careful with the historic trauma of others is what “political correctness” means. It means that the powerful should never attack the disempowered—not because it “offends” them or hurts their “feelings,” but because it perpetuates toxic, oppressive systems. Or, in plainer language, because it makes people’s lives worse. In tangible ways. For generations.
Think of it as a ladder with #BlackLivesMatter currently on a lower rung and #BlueLivesMatter on a higher. #BlueLivesMatter is already higher, we know that the policeman’s life is valued more than blacks, more than most non-policemen in general. When a police officer dies, especially on a job, there are grand funerals with processions attended by whole unions, politicians, and community members. When a black man is shot and killed by police officer, or anyone for that matter, the narrative jumps to accusations, drugs, and violence. #BlackLivesMatter as a movement exists to push that knowledge into the open, it isn’t saying that Blue Lives Don’t Matter, it is just saying, that they exist too, don’t assume that every time one black man or woman is killed by the the police that they are always in the wrong.
The police aren’t infallible.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement is not striving to take the police down, they just want to be heard, understood, and given the opportunity to stand on equal footing in a dialogue for change. But the #BlueLivesMatter takes that sentiment and by saying that their lives matter too, they are only make the distance greater. Of course their lives matter, of course, they can breathe. Pushing that knowledge back into the faces of those fighting for their rights is adding lemon juice to a cut. They have taken the focus away from the needs of the oppressed and placed it back on themselves. They say the want a dialogue yet literally turn their backs on a mayor trying to balance his duties to his town’s officers and the worries he has seen first hand as a father of black teenager.
It happens over and over again in movements, the cries of “Not all” or “We matter too” miss the point. They strive to tell tell the protesters, usually the oppressed group, that they are better than most, that they deserve special treatment, that they shouldn’t be protested against. And that is the very reason they are being protested against because they think they are special and that their image is more important than the grievances of the oppressed.
When you post things about how these protesters are ruining your significant other’s profession/life you belittle the things they actually are sworn to protect. These spouses and partners aren’t proving their love and fidelity by belittling the lives and concerns of others. They actually appear callous to many people and tone deaf to the rest. They appear to be unable to think beyond the groupthink that wearing any uniform and badge sets you above the rest.
It’s a fallacy to turn these protests into a dichotomy of Police vs. Protesters. If one side is unequivocally right and one side is unequivocally wrong, it means that either all police officers are good and all protesters are wrong OR all police officers are racist murdering pigs and all protesters are good. By supporting the whole police force without any admission that there might be some wrong doing, you are saying that your significant other is just part of a herd who cannot think for himself, just following orders, that they are all the same, and no one could ever do something wrong.
Police Officers legally carry weapons on the streets, have a whole infrastructure behind them supporting their decisions and are paid to place themselves in danger. If they feel threatened by one unarmed black man, by two black teenagers jay-walking, by one black kid who may or may not have a real gun, if they feel threatened enough to shoot to kill without any further assessment then we need to rethink their training, we need to rethink why white serial killers, school shooters, mass murderers, white passing terrorists, can be brought in alive while a 12 year old black boy playing alone with a toy gun lies on the street without first aid after being shot by a police officer, already called unfit for duty, via his car window.
When you blindly support the whole broken system out of love of your partner and his life work, you add fuel to the fire. You aren’t protecting your husband or boyfriend, you are throwing them under the bus by implicating them as part of overall system damaged by racist practices. I do not believe your partners to be bad men. I would hope that they can help change the system and earn the people’s honor and respect based on their practices but I will not give it to them simply because they wear blue, neither will I condemn a man simply because he is black.