Black Lives Matter, a movement that emerged as a collective response to abuse of state force in Black communities, has been active now for roughly three years. In that time, not one political official — NOT ONE — has pushed for or proposed anything resembling Black Lives Matter legislation — that would protect specific groups of people who are consistently, systematically harassed and killed by the state while going about their day-to-day lives.
I can see the ancestral face of Malcolm X flashing his signature wide grin as I wrote those lines. “What do we care about legislation?” he’d argue. “It’s just more legislation, more legislation on top of all legislation that came before it. They didn’t enforce the old ones. They’ll never enforce the new ones.”
No argument there. But, still. If the civil rights movement yielded anything, it was, at least, legislation. The 1964 Civil Rights Bill. The 1965 Voting Rights Act. In the mid-twentieth century, anyone resisting Jim Crow and segregation could anticipate a legislative response to racism and white supremacy.
We find ourselves in an altogether different moment in the 21st Century. It would seem that black people no longer have this minimal concession to look forward to anymore. But police do. Or perhaps I should refer to them by the color-based moniker they’re going by these days: Blue Lives.
In Louisiana, a state bill (H.B. 953) that goes by the charming name of “Blue Lives Matter” was sponsored by Rep. Lance Harris. The bill, which would make killing police officers a hate crime, would add an extra five years’ jail time and $5,000 fine for crimes against law enforcers. Contrary to Harris’ statement that H.B. 953 is needed, the bill would just be one more effort to intensify the penalties for attacking police officers.
H.B. 953 has made its way through the state House and, at this very moment, awaits the signature of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. Reports are, the bill was inspired by the death of a police officer in Texas (Sheriff Daren Goforth) and similar police killings. Of course, the official statement does not and can not touch on the real motive. If we’ve learned anything in the past several years, it’s that truth in large doses is too unsettling and dangerous.
Certain statements give us a glimpse into this truth. Statements like, “Trayvon Martin should not have been wearing a hoodie,” or “Mike Brown was a thug who deserved to be shot,” or “Tamir Rice should have known better than to play with a toy gun knowing he didn’t look 12,” or “Freddie Gray run should not have run.”
History shows that where there is social protest and demand for state accountability, there is state antagonism; calls for “law and order” are the pushback to calls for social justice. It’s how the civil rights movement was defeated. It’s how state governments today are looking to kill Black Lives Matter.
Blue Lives Matter is this era’s call for “law and order.” Cries to protect law enforcers and their umbrella agencies emerged almost seamlessly in lockstep with the movement for Black Lives. Law and order aside, its true intent is — and has always been — to function as an oppositional force.
Which is to say: Blue Lives Matter is, essentially, an anti-Black Lives protest by another name, one that follows an old, familiar and hideous logic that insists on victimizing the victimizer at the expense of the victimized. One that prefers to believe that the color blue has had the most torturous history. One that prefers to feed the public misinformation filled with accusations that crime and attacks on police have increased exponentially since Fergerson (the so-called “Ferguson effect”), suggests that police killings are rarely, if at all, taken seriously and investigated and claims that justice is never meted out to the perpetrators of these heinous acts.
Too bad the data shows otherwise. I quote here from Thinkprogress:
There’s also no evidence to support the idea that there’s a war on cops. Data shows that the number of police officer deaths is actually on the decline. A 2014 report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) found that the average number of killings of police has been dropping since 1973 and reached a record low in 2013. The number of firearm killings increased slightly in 2014 and 2015, but were still below the decade average.
Some of the cases held up by the media as examples of anti-police sentiment turned out to be police who actually shot themselves. A manhunt for the alleged killer of an Illinois officer lasted weeks before law enforcement realized he committed “a carefully-staged suicide” out of fear that his longtime corruption was about to be unmasked. Before admitting to the mistake, police claimed Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz was shot and killed during a foot chase. Another officer triggered another manhunt in Massachusetts, claiming that someone had shot at him in his squad car. Investigators later determined he shot his own car.
Taking all of this in, we’re left with the conclusion that Louisiana is looking to pull a Richard Nixon, pushing through a shitty piece of legislation designed to carry out a racist agenda without appearing to be racists.