Bruises, in shades of black and blue

Dallas law enforcement patrols walk down the street a block from the police headquarters. Five members of law enforcement were killed at a Black Lives Matter protest following the deaths of two black men earlier that week. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.
Dallas law enforcement patrols walk down the street a block from the police headquarters. Five members of law enforcement were killed at a Black Lives Matter protest following the deaths of two black men earlier that week. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

In a country divided between citizens and law enforcement, whose life matters?

By Dusty Hartl

July 13, 2016


There is a perpetual notion that because you believe all lives in this world matter, you are against the idea that the black American community is in peril.

It is relatively easy to see that the black American community fears their lives in the face of police intervention. Last week’s events, where two black men in different cities, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were shot for selling CDs and during a traffic stop, respectively, proved the Black Lives Matter movement still had clout.

These fears, however, have turned from nonviolent to threatening to the lives of law enforcement. During a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas hours in response to the week’s deaths, law enforcement officers were gunned down. Five lost their lives.

As a member of a law enforcement family, it is my job, first and foremost, to love and support the law enforcement departments in my community and around the world.

Although, because of my family ties, I have been prompted to become an activist for law enforcement reform; including body cameras, training in nonlethal forces and strengthening community ties between law enforcement and those they serve.

So, I am with the phrase “All Lives Matter,” because whether it’s blue or black, we all deserve “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

In a comment to one of my friends on Facebook, I defended why individuals prefer to say “All Lives Matter.”

I think, and this is only my opinion, the purpose of #AllLivesMatter is to signify that there are other people besides members of the black community being hurt or killed. Such as police officers, Latinos, the LGBT community, and more. And although we want to focus on just black lives, the reality is there needs to be a change across the board and not with just one ethnic/racial group. I support the black lives matter movement, I support the blue lives matter movement, I support the all lives matter movement. I believe we should be ending violence against all communities. However, just saying black lives discredits those who are still unrepresented, I.e Native Americans (with one the highest suicide rate of any ethnic group and one of the lowest incomes of any ethnic group). So, all in all, it is just about being conscious that ending violence period should be the goal we try to accomplish.”

Although it is obvious that I support the men and women in blue, it is important to understand that the black American community has always faced an uphill battle with discrimination.

Roland G. Fryer, Jr.’s recent Harvard study published in the New York Times shows that while race statistically plays no part in the decision on whether to pull the trigger, it leads to anywhere from 16 to 25 percent higher chances of having force used on you in New York City, if you happen to be black.

The study acknowledged every encounter with law enforcement was different, and it wasn’t to say whether Ferguson’s Michael Brown, Cleveland’s Tamir Rice, New York City’s Eric Garland – and most recently, Sterling and Castile – happened to be affiliated with race.

In 2015, the Washington Post tracked the cases of those who were killed by law enforcement. Out of all of those, 732 of those shot were white, 381 were black and 382 were of an unknown race.

So yes, more white people were shot last year than black people, if you choose only to look at those numbers. The numbers tell a slightly different story when you consider there are 160 million more white Americans in the U.S. than black Americans.

And when you further consider those who are unarmed, 100 of those encounters found the result to be fatal. It turned out to be an equal number of black and white people who were killed by law enforcement, 50 apiece. Seeing that there are five times as many white Americans in the United States as there are black Americans, the statistics show in the past year, having more melanin in your skin cells made you five times more likely to be killed.

It is easy to see many people who are either pro-blue or pro-black think you have to choose a side. This is disheartening because now, more than ever, people should be coming together instead of pushing each other apart.

Trevor Noah, host of the “Daily Show” on Comedy Central, put it best.

“It always feels like, in America, if you take a stand for something, you automatically are against something else,” Noah said. “You can be pro-cop and pro-black. It’s what we should all be. It’s what we should be aiming for. You shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens they are sworn to protect.”

His predecessor Jon Stewart promoted a similar message.

“You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach,” Steward said in a show following Garner’s December 2014 death. “Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.”

Both the police and black American communities are hurting in the wake of last week’s events. The wound LGBT community is still fresh as they mourn their victims of gun violence from Orlando a month ago. Every community is beginning to feel threatened.

Violence is plaguing our nation, world and for some of us, our homes. There’s too many families with an empty chair at the kitchen table and a bedroom down the hall left hauntingly silent.

We need active regulations on guns and a call for demilitarization of our community police. Most of all, we need to come together as humans and mourn our dead and try to honor their memory by making a difference to the face of violence.

It is starting to become harder to remember the last time I felt safe walking outside, in a mall, movie theater, church or even my own backyard.

So in the end, whose lives matter and what are we doing as a human race to end discrimination and violence? So far? Not much.