All Lives Matter?

“Police Lives Matter.”  We all want to live in a society that is safe enough to ensure that our rights are protected.  The police protect us individually and serve us all communally.  As civil servants they nobly dedicate themselves to the common good, upholding the rule of law that we have together established and inherited through mostly peaceful democracy.

And the police are well compensated for their civil service.  Generally higher paid than teachers, police also enjoy a high level of societal respect.  Finally, police are powerful members of our society because of the authority they wield, and they are well protected by the law that they enforce.  In contemporary society, there is no doubt that police lives matter.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for black lives in contemporary America, and that is why it is important to speak out about ongoing injustices toward black Americans, and why I think it is disrespectful in the current climate to emblazon your vehicle with the bumper sticker “Police Lives Matter.”

It is for the very reason that police lives already do matter in society that I find it disheartening to see that bumper sticker flash past me on the interstate, the driver (white, incidentally) flagrantly flouting the speed limit law with no apparent understanding of the fact that, were he to be pulled over by the police for breaking the law, his whiteness would almost guarantee that his encounter with police would not jeopardize his safety, and yet, were he black, there would be a much higher chance that, through no fault of his own, his encounter with police — who are tasked with protecting all of us, keeping all of us safe, ensuring all of our rights — might actually lead to a decrease in his protection, a decrease in his safety, a decrease in his rights, purely because his skin is a certain shade.  This may not necessarily be the fault of the police, but it is a statistic that we should all be aware of, perhaps especially the police who have nobly dedicated themselves to the common good, to the protection and safety and rights of all of us.

We should all empathize with that innocent black driver, and his situation should be justification for us all to commit to creating a society in which black lives matter.  There is no immanent threat to whiteness, and there is no need to detract from an important civil rights and social justice movement — Black Lives Matter — to remind us that police lives already do matter.  We know they do.  One need only see the results of the last dozen high-profile national-news trials in which a policeman was not held accountable for killing an innocent black person, to remind us that police lives already do matter.

The contemporary issue is how to ensure that Black Lives Matter, because if we all want to live in a society that is safe enough to ensure that our rights are protected, then all lives need to matter.  Empathize with the police, sure — because they have to make difficult decisions; because they wield authority that might make them targets of violence; because they are on the front lines of changing our currently racist society in which 1 out of every 3 black men in the U.S. can expect to be imprisoned in their lifetime (according to the Bureau of Justice) — but don’t apologize for prejudice, and don’t distract from a civil rights movement because you might be afraid of losing a war of racial dominance.  There is no war, and a person’s skin color should not determine the extent to which his rights are protected.

If you agree that you want to live in a society that is safe for all of us, then in this contemporary moment please commit with me to ensuring that Black Lives Matter.

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