Countering Frequent *Racist Talking Points

I have been spending the majority of the summer building up the site (update soon to come!) but I have also watched a the comments and forums of many social media sites to learn about how discourse takes place around racially traumatic events. While it means being exposed to a lot vitriol, especially towards victims of police brutalization, it also means noticing a trend of how these racist talking points keep finding their way into every conflict involving police and Black people. Usually these talking points are thrown out to frustrate the conversation, largely because it moves the conversation away from the main point – police brutality and racism. Below I will highlight these statements and provide (hopefully) helpful counterpoints to them.

“Don’t All Lives Matter?”
This is usually a rebuttal to Black Lives Matter (also doubles as a dismissal). Given our current social climate, this has become willfully ignorant to the inherent “too” at the end of #BLM. When telling a Black person, “All lives matter,” not only does it show a refusal to see inequality and inequity when it comes to justice but it simultaneously does not acknowledge the issue at hand. It becomes more sinister when the user sees the inequality but decides to dismiss it anyway. In short, all lives are not experiencing discrimination.

“Blue Lives Matter”
Shortly after the creation of Black Lives Matter, this phrase popped up as statement to support police and free them from criticism around controversial and violent policing habits. Given policing is a job, this phrase already has an unsteady platform. If a police officer does not agree with the institution they are a part of, they can find another job. Being Black is not a choice. Police are supposed to protect (and serve). If they do their job poorly, they should be held accountable. If a Black person commits a crime, they are convicted, charged, and sent to jail. This is not the same course of action for police. From the historical perspective, Blue Lives have always mattered while we know Black lives have not.

“Not all cops, just a few bad apples”
Often looking to downplay the actions of police officers, this point works in lockstep with Blue Lives Matter. “I still support the police and will not look to hold them accountable.” The “bad apples” have rarely been charged or convicted for their actions and “bad apples” are given no incentive to change their behavior. If a “good apple” calls out the behavior of “bad apples”, they’ve broken the unspoken rule of silence among the Blue. They can be punished for whistleblowing and it can become dangerous for them depending on how deeply rooted the issues are within a department.

Since 2005, 110 officers have been charged for shooting someone while on duty. Of the 110, 42 were convicted. 1,049 people were killed by police in 2019 alone. A low rate of accountability sends a message that the law is subjective and if a person dies on their watch, it was not their responsibility.

“If people just followed the law, they would be fine.”
The short response to this is Stephon Clark, Tamir Rice, and more recently, Breonna Taylor. Trevor Noah discusses this point on The Daily Show as well. The main takeaway here is assuming police are absolute good and so is their judgement. Noah discusses the idea of a “Social Contract”, an understanding that there are common rules, ideals and practices that everyone follows and abides by. Black people are seeing this “contract” is not being upheld by everyone, even worse, there are loopholes that are being openly exploited. Noah goes on to talk about Ahmaud Arbery’s murder and how public outcry is what ultimately brought in his murderers. Is that how the contract is supposed to work? George Floyd’s murder is also an example of the contract not being followed. The contract loses meaning if the law and those in power do not uphold it. The law is becoming subjective as more evidence appears that there are a separate set of rules at play.

“Many of the people killed had criminal histories”
In light of Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others, this is largely brought up to justify police brutality. Police rarely know a person’s past criminal record when making arrests in these situations. It should not decide an officer’s use of force, especially murder, if the person is already subdued. Police are trained to de-escalate situations, even when scared. They should not be seen as the judge, jury, and executioner.

Many of the police officers who have killed people have prior “on the job” offenses or murders on their records and they still have a job. This also folds into the “few bad apples” point. All aside, a person should not have an absolutely spotless record to justify their life.

“Cops kill more White people than Black people”
It has been estimated (as of early 2020) that there are 5.7x more White people than Black people in America. By numbers alone, this is not an incorrect statement, it is to be expected. But by proportions, Black people are killed by cops at a rate of 3x more than White people, and most of those killings have often been unarmed. In an analysis of police violence in the city of Minneapolis, police killed Black people at 13x the rate of White people. Any death is a tragedy but we are witnessing a sizable fracture and break down in best practices for policing, largely due to bias. This bias extends from the history of associating blackness with criminality.

“But Black people commit more crime”
This is false. Crimes committed by Black people are more reported and largely over-attributed in a system that still values quotas for arrest. Gentrification also attributes to a higher police presence in diverse neighborhoods, moreso than in White neighborhoods. This creates a police surveillance state in these neighborhoods and more instances of White residents calling the cops on POCs for perceived misdemeanors.

Black people are 5x more likely to be stopped by police without just cause than a white person. Black people are also 3.7x more likely to be arrested for weed possession than White people, although drug use has been recorded to be generally the same across race and ethnicity. In a study of nearly 100 million traffic stops from around the United States concluded that Black people are 20% more likely to be pulled over. If the system is already viewing Black people as a threat, it already puts police interactions at a disadvantage for Black people.

“What about Black on Black crime?”
Because of the ongoing discussion of police brutality, this redirect is becoming more prominent. This statement (as well as the 13/52 dogwhistle (worth researching)) is largely used as a way to subvert the main conversation while simultaneously injecting racism and the association of Black people and criminality. Upon further breakdown of these statistics, you will see that most crimes happen between people of the same race. If you compare White and Black neighborhoods with similar income levels, there are similar rates of crime, mainly because crime and poverty are linked. Black people have been associated for criminality for decades which has cause the presumption of guilt, especially from officers who felt they “fit a description” or a stereotype. There is also a lack of knowledge around the number or programs and outreach that has been successful of curbing violence in high poverty areas. Crime overall has been trending downward but this talking point does not acknowledge that truth.

I often see Chicago immediately brought into conversations around crime and it should be noted that is not even in the top 10 most violent places (not even the top 50). It is usually used as a prop to push the conversation (which should be focused on racism and police brutality) into a space that has to prove Black people are “worthy” of being seen as innocent.

“Why can’t they peacefully protest in a way that does not disturb anyone?”
The short answer to this is examining the activism of Colin Kaepernick. However, this question can often be asked with another question: What is the proper way to protest? Protesting in America on behalf of Civil Rights is over 100 years old (this is not including slavery revolts) and only now we are seeing the focus beginning to stay on the subject. The protester/police relationship is strenuous at best. It does not help when police, armed with military equipment, try to “break up” crowds. If a peaceful protest is broken up, it will largely be seen as a riot. Police get the benefit of the doubt in these interactions.

I am also aware that there are a minority of people that use these occasions to loot and destroy businesses. Somehow this becomes the focal point of the entire movement and is painted as if everyone who is protesting is simultaneously burning the city. The discussion, when watered down becomes about property damage vs murder by a government-backed institution. Stores can be rebuilt, lives cannot.

*”How are these questions racist?
Hopefully, by reading the responses, you can see there is presumption of Black guilt and a dismissal of a Black person’s right to be treated equally by the justice system. The main focus is police brutality and racism and there’s an underlying assumption that a person has done something to make an officer act of out self-defense. Even if these questions are well-intended, the impact is overtly negative. If there is not acknowledgement of the clear miscarriage of justice, no trust has been formed and everything discussed thereafter will be viewed as subjective. Politics has heavily polarized these conversations and it is ultimately important that we recognize that we are discussing an overreach of authority when it comes to policing Black people. If you view police as without fault, again, it is worth introspection as to why you are currently viewing Black people as expendable.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION
I do not think it would be fair to create an entire post about combating racist talking points around policing without discussing possible alternatives to the issue at hand. I truly believe the majority of what we ask cops to do on a regular basis (noise complaints, loitering, handling those with mental health issues, etc.) police are not trained for. This lack of training manifests itself in dangerous ways and can turn a nonviolent incident into a violent one in a matter of seconds. If there were other services available that were equipped to handle these complaints and could be relied upon it could immediately mitigate the interactions police are, at best, ineffective, or at worst, actively harmful.

If we use the NYPD as an example, its budget is nearly $6 billion (you are reading that correctly). If we were to defund the NYPD to build up other services and allocate those funds into programs that can provide more community policing services, not only would we see a reduction in violent police interactions but also we begin to see an community work towards self-sufficiency. It is no secret that police do not often live in places they are responsible for policing, many police have to spend time developing relationships with the neighborhoods they work with. This is built on thin ice as it only takes one altercation to shatter the relationship. This is because there is little to no trust to begin with. Trust is built through education and if some of the funds work towards proper education for communities and police, there is likely to be more respect in every encounter. The goal is to foster empathy.

We have learned that crime happens when basic needs are not met. Looking to shift resources to meet those needs will hopefully help the greater population. Again, politics has actively played a role in shielding our own citizens from recognizing our biases and building empathy with one another.

I hope you all are staying safe and please do not hesitate to ask for sources if needed. I will be happy to provide for further reading. Thank you.


-Derek

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