Unless blacks lives are included, "all lives matter" is a lie.
by Katherine HawkerSelf
I saw a picture of police officers posing with a "Police Lives Matter" sign and I sighed. In all likelihood these are worthy persons and (regardless) their lives do matter. But their posture is an intentional and direct challenge to #BlackLivesMatter. This does nothing to lessen the tension, this is a subtle but very real example of escalation.
And it is a false equivalency.
Being a police officer is a job. You get hired, you get paid, you wear a uniform (usually), and (most importantly) you go home at night. It is of course a job that shapes identity, but it is no less a choice. I once had a such a job, that as pastor. And long since I packed the clergy robes away, I still find myself identifying as a minister. Some jobs do become part of who we are. But they are no less choices, and we also choose when (and if) to show up visibly identified as such.
The pernicious thing about societies that choose to identify, caste, and discriminate based on physical characteristics is that there is nowhere and no way to hide. There is no choice. There is no going home at night.
Clearly there is amongst white folks a failure to understand the intent and urgency of the phrase #BlackLivesMatter. It has a history, it was a phrase coined by three queer Black women following the murder of Trayvon Martin. And it has a brilliance.
Of course all lives matter, that's the brilliance. But unless we can say loudly and proudly speak that Black Lives Matter, until Black lives are treated with human decency and respect, then Black lives have not been included in the "all". If you flinch when you hear Black, your "all" is empty.
I get that police officers are public employees, so am I as a teacher. We are a mixed lot with a lot of good intent. But with police officers (and for that matter the entire prison industrial complex) we have bestowed another level of power (weapons) and thereby need another level of accountability. A lovefest for the police will not obfuscate the need for accountability in the wake of the clear militarization of our public streets.
If you believe that all lives matter, it is time to stop the parallel play and pick up your #BlackLivesMatter sign for your front yard. Because until we are able to say (and mean) that Black lives matter, the "all" is simply a cruel lie.
And #whitefolkwork is calling out the lie.
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