Opposite sides of the spectrum of the discussion on police brutality were represented by two rallies held in downtown Austin on Sept. 19 — Police Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter. In order to understand the clashing of these two affiliations, one must know what they stand for. Black Lives Matter is a community-driven movement created to battle anti-black racism, as well as peacefully revolt against the disproportionate amount of police violence toward blacks. Police Lives Matter is a movement created to “highlight all the good that goes into protecting and serving,” but is rooted in complacency and undermines black activists.
BLM gained traction following the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. Since then, protests have erupted across the country following police killings of other unarmed black people, including Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Larry Jackson Jr., John Crawford and Freddie Gray.
Fundamentally, BLM intends to hold police accountable for mistreating black people, along with battling other forms of anti-black racism.The Washington Post’s interactive database tracking police killings by gunfire, which the FBI admitted to improperly counting, is crucial accountability that exists because of BLM and other awareness initiatives.
Furthermore, BLM’s grievances are not without statistical reinforcement. Black men are seven times more likely to be shot dead by police while unarmed than white men. As of 2013, 90 percent of those stopped-and-frisked by the NYPD were black or Hispanic, with 11.1 percent resulting in an arrest. Prison sentences for black men were 20 percent longer than white men with similar crimes. This blatant racial discrimination in the police and justice systems is what BLM wants to end.
These statistics are only a small part of why “black lives matter” is a phrase every American needs to hear.
The PLM Facebook page states “Police Lives Matter because All Lives Matter.” Much of the page’s dialogue operates around police safety and the debunked “War on Cops,” although felonious deaths of officers has been the lowest in decades. Simultaneously, police are killing civilians at outrageous speeds, and at a staggeringly higher rate than other developed countries. The page makes no attempt to acknowledge the police’s discriminatory track record.
Movements like PLM, phrased identically to BLM as a means of contradiction, cloud the accountability black activists have worked to advance. When there is irrefutable documentation of harassment and violence against the black people officers are sworn in to protect, blind praise is the antithesis of a solution.
BLM asking for their verifiable concerns to be acknowledged, as well as humanity, should not be controversial.
Supporting police without criticising their oppression of black people proves what BLM has been saying from the beginning: Too many do not care about black lives. This isn’t the first time a group has attempted to disenfranchise black civil rights movements. To support BLM is to be on the right side of history.
Hamze is an international relations and global studies junior from Austin. He is an Associate Editor. Follow Hamze on Twitter @adamhamz.