Within the month of December, two non-black, police officers of color were killed by a black assailant while sitting in their car on duty. The men had no reason to believe they were in imminent danger, aside from being on police detail, and were clearly taken by surprise by their assailant. They were killed in cold blood and their families lost an important piece of the livelihoods.
The facts surrounding the immediate killing of the officers, particularly officers of color, was off-putting and jarring to say the least. Pundits around the nation began to decry a war on police and policing within the nation, with some famously proclaiming that protesters, mayors and the President of the United States all “had blood on their hands.” These statements were quite shocking come from many who had enhanced, mandated, endorsed or celebrated the particular tactics that gave rise to many of the deaths–noted and unnoted–that led to protests around the nation, not to mention the omnipresent, always simmering relationship between people of color and (mostly white) police. The pundits used the racial identity of those officers killed to humanize the police force. To the unlearned and untrained eye, the nearly all-white police attendance at the funeral of deceased Officer Ramos looked much like a post-racial show of solidarity. It would lead one to believe that the true racists, those concerned with propagating racial violence and subordination were those who boldly demanded that #BlackLivesMatter in America, everywhere. It was a clever ploy, but we know better.
White Supremacy works in mysterious ways–well not really. First it masks itself. White Supremacy was masked here, as the violent enforcer of state policies, through the intentional switch from an analysis of the longstanding, systemic practices of the police force to opinions, narratives and controlling images of good cops vs bad cops vs angry people of color vs responsible people of color. White supremacy is masked through a muddling of fact and fiction, analysis and opinion, systemic and (imputed) cultural. Secondly, it divorces itself from historical phenomena and trends. In the case of NYDP, STLPD, LAPD and that which is happening in Ohio and across the nation, we see multiple internal and external reviews discarded for a narrative of how crime has gone down, how today is different, how the threat of terrorism(s) mandates such police practices, despite such violent policing being a hallmark of America long before 9/11 (read: The New Jim Crow). Next, it validates it practices by it’s selective inclusion of or endorsement by individual (racial/sexual/gender) minorities. This was exhibited by positioning the two murdered officers as the face of the NYPD, by calling in a black officer to head up the Ferguson response and by incessant video feed of black folk (obligatorily) saying how much they “respected police.” The implicit message is: “people of color endorse us, therefore, our practices cannot be racist.” The bodies and statements of individual peoples of color begin to function as a sociocultural and sociopolitical shield for white supremacist systems, practices and ideologies that undoubtedly continue to lash at these supposed-defenders in particular ways (microaggressions within the police force, racial profiling, stop & frisk, broken windows policies, violent/lethal “enforcement”, effects of criminal records on employment). Taken together, this creates a “police (peace) officer vs (disruptive) protester” confrontation, as opposed to an analysis of “policing policies vs policing practices” or “militarized policing vs community policing” or “police state vs community control.” The first example relies on the police as protectors of (whiteness as) property against violent vagabonds (people of color), positioning violent and lethal police activities as both natural and necessary responses to the realities of their job..that is policing those people of color who trapped in controlling images–if not circumstances–as the perpetual threat to societal peace, calm and resiliency. The existence of people of color is therefore understood not through a lens of humanization and love but instead through the tropes of incessant nuisance and bumbling, insatiable super-parasite at best and super/subhuman aggressor at worst.
Therefore, when we hear that “Blue Lives Matter” do not be fooled into humanizing white supremacy and giving breath to a badge and tentacles of a system meant to protect some by terrorizing others. Blue lives do not matter, because there is no such as a blue life. While the lives of most officers matter, we already knew that without cause for reminder. We are reminded that the value of the life of a police officer, particularly a white police officer, is exhaulted far above the rest anytime an elected official runs for office and proclaims how s/he supports the police without critique. We are reminded that police lives matters when they are equipped and trained to kill first, ask questions never, with relative impunity. We recall how much police lives supposedly matter when a 12 year old child is killed for posing an existential threat to an armed officer, or when one officer is justified in killing a civilian because he “saw a demon.” In these cases, we are reminded of the supposed value of police lives..but looking deeper..we might begin to understand that police lives don’t really matter either..unless they are in working in service of the white supremacist system. If the system or society writ-large were truly concerned with police, they’d be trained properly to engage with community, to co-police and to de-escalate violence situations. If the system cared about police, they’d pay them properly, educate them constantly and remove numerous problematic, petty and racialized laws from the books…from traffic fuckery, to weed, to habitual offender ish. Police are positioned as the first line of defense for white supremacy and the enforcers of racial-inequity…they’re pawns in a much bigger game. In summation, #BlueLivesDontExist, police are being pimped and people of color are still situational chattel.