Whenever racists are confronted with indisputable evidence of police brutality against black people, they seek the protection of a mighty fortress: Blue Lives Matter.
Unable to make an argument that justifies the violence and fearful that their indifference to it will expose the racism in their hearts, the sophisticated racist shifts the narrative from the dirty cop and toward the thousands of decent, fair-minded cops who are prepared to put their lives on the line and sometimes do. Blue Lives Matter, they say.
It seems benign enough.
After all, all of us depend on our law enforcement to protect us and it’s certainly not fair to judge all cops by the conduct of “a few bad apples.” No one celebrates the death of a cop.
Blue Lives Matter? Why, of course.
Yet Blue Lives Matter, when used as a rallying cry is a lie, a cover for indifference and inaction.
It is a cynical counter-argument to Black Lives Matter. The only time you hear “Blue Lives Matter” is in the immediate aftermath of some horrible act committed by a cop, most often against a black person.
It’s time we recognize that for what it is, and see past the thin gauze of legitimacy and expose its ugly essence.
The phrase is meaningless, like saying water is wet, because we all accept that Blue Lives have always mattered and have mattered a great deal.
When a cop is killed, the full weight of punishment awaits the perpetrator. There are no plea bargains or reduced sentences. The killer gets the maximum punishment the law permits.
Justice is swift and certain.
We know Blue Lives Matter because it is proven in every single instance.
Compare that certainty to what happens when it’s a cop who takes the life of a black person.
Do Black Lives Matter to an equal degree?
What does experience tell us?
Last October, a Dallas cop named Amber Guyger was found guilty of shooting and killing an unarmed black man in his own apartment. The sentence: 10 years. She’ll probably be out well before then.
A few days later, a Georgia police officer was sentenced to 20 years (12 to serve) for killing an unarmed black Afghanistan war veteran who suffered from PTSD.
This week, Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, who was captured on video kneeling on the neck of a black man, causing his death, was charged with third-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.
Last week, right here in our community, a manslaughter charge against a cop who shot and killed a black man was dropped by Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, whose enthusiasm for Blue Lives Matter apparently knows no limits.
Canyon Boykin was indicted by a grand jury on manslaughter charges in 2016 for the 2015 shooting death of Ricky Ball. Since then, the previous AG staff had argued forcefully and effectively to prevent Boykin’s attorney from having the charge dismissed.
That changed when Fitch and her new staff took over the AG’s office.
Fitch’s timing is spectacular. She could have dropped the charge a month ago or a month from now. Instead, she chose to dismiss charges against a cop who killed a black man during a week in which protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a cop were boiling over into riots.
It was a “just get over it” slap in the face to the citizens of Columbus, especially the black citizens of Columbus, while giving a nod to her base of racists hiding behind the veneer of Blue Lives Matter.
It was calculated. It was cruel. It is shameful.
None of us know if Canyon Boykin was legally justified in the killing of Ricky Ball. Thanks to Fitch, we will never know. Likewise, Boykin has been cleared but not exonerated. The stigma will follow him the rest of his life.
No one — not the people of Columbus, the family of Ricky Ball or even Boykin — was given their day in court.
Lynn Fitch made sure of that while making a larger point: Blue Lives Matter mainly because Black Lives Matter so very little.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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