First they came for the blacks, and I did not speak out – because I was not black.
The “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement is about two problems: racism and policing. Critics of BLM confuse themselves by addressing questions of racism when they should really be focusing on what race is revealing about the police.
Nobody denies that as a subpopulation black Americans are disproportionately violent and criminal. Based on that observation, it is not unreasonable to expect that proper law enforcement will have a disproportionate effect on black Americans.
But BLM isn’t about statistics. It’s about individuals, and the dignity that every American deserves at the hands of public servants. And it’s a warning about the kinds of people who are allowed to work as police officers, and the kind of behavior that is tolerated within their ranks.
We know that there are people who, when given the opportunity, will exploit authority for sadistic pleasure. These sadists will for their own amusement harass, humiliate, torture, and even kill others. Law enforcement fosters precisely the circumstances that attract and facilitate such sadistic behavior. BLM is trying to alert us to the widespread institutional failures to address and control such police behavior.
BLM is the canary in the coal mine. The black subpopulation will be the first to detect a culture of police brutality and corruption, and will suffer its effects most severely. But every American is at risk when police are given institutional protection to abuse their authority. BLM critics shouldn’t assume that the “bad apples” in law enforcement only harass black criminals, or that collateral damage is limited to upstanding black citizens who should understand that racial profiling is an unfortunate but necessary evil in our effort to maintain law and order.
Sadistic police can and do target all citizens. One can readily find daily accounts of abuses perpetrated by virtually unaccountable police cowards hiding behind their fellow officers, their union, and the qualified immunity enjoyed by government agents.
All those who offer unqualified support for this police institution must understand that they share culpability for every incident in which an officer harasses, tortures, or unjustly kills a citizen. They should also realize that, no matter their race or social status, they could be the next victim of police brutality.