Two New York police officers were killed on Saturday. This is an unfortunate happening.
Spokespeople for the New York City police have responded in a predictable way by using the deaths of two officers as a means to delegitimize public concerns about police thuggery and murder in the aftermath of the public strangling of Eric Garner and the execution by cop of Michael Brown.
The Police Benevolence Association said this about the shootings in New York:
The head of the Policeman’s Benevolent Association in New Jersey said that the shooting of the officers was “spurred on by so much recent hatred aimed at officers everywhere.”
“Our society stands safer because of the sacrifices officers make everyday, but the hatred that has grown over the past few weeks in this country has gone unchecked by many elected leaders,” the official, Patrick Colligan, said in a statement posted on Facebook.
A declaration of war against people of color in New York has also been issued:
A statement purporting to be from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the biggest police union, blamed Mr. de Blasio for the shootings.
“The mayor’s hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words, actions and policies,” read the statement, “and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department. We will act accordingly.”
The statement instructed officers to forward it to colleagues, and it spread instantly through the department.
Threats of thuggery and retaliation have also been made against publicly elected officials:
The head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, blamed the mayor for the shootings as he addressed officers outside Woodhull Hospital after the bodies of Officer Liu and Officer Ramos were borne away.
“There is blood on many hands, from those that incited violence under the guise of protest to try to tear down what police officers did every day,” Mr. Lynch said.
“That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.”
Now is a time of grieving, Mr. Lynch said. “We’ll mourn for our city and we’ll mourn for our brothers,” he said. “We’ll straighten our shoulders, we’ll stiffen our backs and we’ll wipe our tears.”
But he warned, “When those funerals are over, we’ll raise our heads and those that allowed this to go on will be held accountable.”
Social media has responded with the hashtag "#NYPDLIVESMATTER". This is a direct affront and effort to undermine the slogan "Black Lives Matter" and its affirmation of the value of black peoples' lives.
NYPDLIVESMATTER is a perverse and grotesque statement, one that assumes a lie and false assumption: of course the lives of police "matter"; there is an entire legal, social, and political apparatus to protect the police, and that empowers them to kill innocent people of color without consequences.
Moreover, that NYPDLIVESMATTER is positioned as a response to "Black Lives Matter" demonstrates how "law and order", white racial resentment, and white supremacy are deeply intertwined and almost inseparable in the (White) American political imagination.
America's police were and remain a deeply racist social institution. NYPDLIVESMATTER is a claim and assertion against the justice claims of black Americans. For White America, Right-wing authoritarians, the unthinking mass of the American public, and cop fetishists this is a zero sum process: the possessive investment in Whiteness mandates that one cannot accept how the lives of police are no more valuable and worthy than the lives of African-Americans.
White supremacy and white privilege also demand accountability from "black leadership" and those others who have spoken out against police brutality, crafting broken logic where somehow the protests against police brutality are responsible for the killing of two police in Brooklyn.
Misplaced norms of group accountability for people of color as viewed through the White Gaze are a fixture of white privilege. There is no reciprocity: the supporters of "Black Lives Matter" stand in sympathy with the two police killed in Brooklyn; police and their spokespeople rarely if ever stand in unity with the victims of police violence, thuggery, abuse, and murder.
If the colorline was a sporting event, the spectators are rooting for their respective teams with police on one side and black folks on the other. NYPDLIVESMATTER is cheerleading for a lack of accountability and preemptive violence by the police against African-Americans. Here, the rhetorical evasion in post racial, colorblind discourse will be the lazy out that "we support the police against "criminals" and "thugs" with "race having nothing to do about any of this!"
The obvious is also transparent as "criminals" and "thugs" are stand-ins for "blacks" and "nigger" in the post civil rights era racial discourse.
It is also important to note how NYPDLIVESMATTER exists within the same public discourse as language like "anti-police bigotry":
See this explanation from the Johnson County Law Center for example:
Why would anyone single out people of a certain profession and try to discredit or vilify that entire group?
Such wide-sweeping generalizations about blacks, jews, gays, or other minority groups are typically not tolerated. Yet, when people make bigoted unfounded statements about the policenobody seems to mind.
Like all bigotry, a few anecdotal stories are offered to support the vilification of a certain group. Those who buy into the hatred, soak up any additional data that supports their new found belief system, and ignore anything that challenges their world view.
It seems like just about every week we’re confronted with some new story of police brutality, incompetence, fraud, or other scandal. Most recently it’s been reported that police in North Carolina gunned down an unarmed man who was simply approaching them to request assistance at the scene of an auto accident. (Source: CNN) Another recent incident, in New York City, involved police shooting at an unarmed man in a crowd. They hit innocent bystanders instead. (Source: New York Post) Blended in with current news are reminders of past tragedies, like the story mentioned above of 20 police officers in Toronto who shot and killed a teenager with a penknife.
Let’s say there’s a police-induced tragedy each week. That’s 52 police-related tragedies per year out of about 800,000 officers who are serving. That’s an extremely small number of people making mistakes.* Yet, it’s not the perception we’re left with after following popular media.
Ultimately, we should all do our best to prevent the kind of thinking that demonizes any group of people based on the acts of only a few. Keep that number of 800,000 in mind. Each time you hear of a police officer who’s been convicted of corruption or some other scandal, remember there are another 800,000 good police who are ethically, faithfully, and compassionately serving their communities.
These are common rhetorical moves by the Right-wing in the United States. From "reverse racism" to "equality of opportunity" and "colorblindness", American conservatives have shamelessly, dishonestly--and to great effect--appropriated the language of progressives and liberals to work against the very goal of a more just society that the latter have struggled and died to advance.
Police are the direct hand and face of Power in the United States.
As such, they are the enforcers of the Racial State whose purpose is to feed bodies into the gaping maw of the new Jim and Jane Crow's prisons and jails. The notion that police are "victims" of "bigotry" is an absurd one. While their morality may in fact be stained, enforcers of power, by definition, are not victims of Power.
Contemporary America is a society that is sick with torture, white victimology, gross wealth inequality, and other illnesses that together have created a culture of delusions and lies. Plain spoken truths by people of conscience are a partial antidote.
I will attempt to offer one here: the lives of the police are no more valuable than those of Eric Garner or any other human being.
Human rights trump the "unique", particular, and somehow imagined as "special" lives of the police. We are all human beings with universal rights. The public good will be much better served when the police as a social institution (many of whose members feel empowered to violate the rights of non-whites, the poor, the mentally ill, and those others who society has marginalized) internalize and act upon such a basic and foundational principle.