Most of the posts on my social feeds this weekend observed it was a bad week for America. The events in Dallas Thursday evening are a tragedy — any time a police officer dies protecting his community, it's an injury against the entire polis. When that death occurs senselessly, as they did Thursday, the pain is only more significant. The murder of those five officers in Dallas has rightly captured our national attention, but my brain continues to be consumed with the two deaths that preceded theirs: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
Last month, I read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me. His writing was an incredible gift: it presented the worldview shared by many people of color as I'd never understood it. I had resisted reading the book for months: I strongly disagreed with Coates’ reparations article in The Atlantic, and did not have much interest in his book. Instead, I found it to be insightful and capable of helping me visualize a lot of things I hadn’t understood (and never will) about the black experience in America.
That perspective has cause me to find the reflexive #AllLivesMatter meme incredibly off-putting. The hashtag feels like it's shouting back at #BlackLivesMatter without considering, for even a moment, that is dismissiveness only confirms the urgency of the latter. It's clear that as a whole, our nation (defined as its bureaucracy, authority figures, media and majority consensus) does not value the lives of black people equally to those of white people. I don't believe that's always deliberate: it's embedded in a culture that dismisses "black on black" crime, excuses a high level of fatalities at the hands of law enforcement, and tolerates acts of repression from stop-and-frisk to the doorman who reflexively stops a black patron from entering the building. The point of #BlackLivesMatter is not that black lives matter more than white lives — those protestors would agree that all lives matter equally. It's that in order to achieve parity of value they must call attention to the fact that black lives ought to matter.
The best response to Dallas isn't to counter #BlackLivesMatter with #BlueLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, or any other meme. It's to recognize the wholly legitimate grievance people of color are presenting, embrace it and commit to supporting its resolution.
Why it came to this in Dallas
My reading of conservative media indicates this appreciation for oppression of the black community is quickly moving from being a liberal cause to a mainstream one. Leon Wolf wrote an incredibly insightful editorial in RedState this week about the root of #BlackLivesMatter and the shootings in Dallas: we as a nation have communicated that black lives do not matter by failing to hold those in power accountable when they deprive people of them. This lack of accountability has eroded faith in the system so significantly that the bonds that hold civil society together just aren’t there anymore.
The truth about race and policing
Fixing that starts with reforming our police departments. There’s a great first-person narrative on Vox about how a small number of corrupt officers abuse authority, and like a cancer in their department bring down the overall standard of policing with them. A commenter of the previous RedState article also made an interesting point that ties to some of the notes here: policemen have been deprived of many non-lethal options they once had. Nightsticks, tasers, batons, mace and even pepper spray have been phased out at many departments because of lawsuits. That’s a good idea on the surface, as it prevents police brutality — but it also leaves officers with no solution in-between their hands or their weapon. A situation that might have been diffused with a baton years ago now becomes a shooting. Whether the use of force is warranted or not, the consequences in the latter instance are always going to be that much more terrible.
Hillary can’t be trusted — with anything
I don’t see how anyone could listen to the FBI’s report on Hillary Clinton’s emails and come to any conclusion other than the she lied. It’s clear she set up a system to play by a different set of rules than everyone else, showed terrible judgement, and showed herself to be utterly trustworthy. I agree there should not be an indictment, but these behaviors should clearly take one out of the running to be the most powerful person in the world. Being President is rarely about policy: it’s about smart-decision making. The American people trust the president to make a host of high-stakes decisions they will never be privy to: that we could think someone who acts like this is worthy of that is insane.