Not an Either/Or Choice

Image Cred: Star-Telegram

A police officer was killed today. He died not because of something he did but because of who he was. It is shocking, disturbing, and just plain wrong. There was no consideration for his contributions to society, his loved ones, or his future. We recognize others like him may feel the impact of this killing not just locally, but all across the nation. We feel the need to show our support for our own police officers and make sure their morale does not flag while they are under attack. In an effort to counter the awful news, we make an effort to demonstrate how much we love and support our own police officers.

A black man was killed today. He died not because of something he did but because of who he was. It is shocking, disturbing, and just plain wrong. There was no consideration for his contributions to society, his loved ones, or his future. We recognize others like him may feel the impact of this killing not just locally, but all across the nation. We feel the need to show our support for our own neighbors of color and make sure their morale does not flag while they are under attack. In an effort to counter the awful news, we make an effort to demonstrate how much we love and support our own neighbors of color.

hands up don't shoot

“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” by: Jazmine Hughes

It is not an either/or choice. There is room in our hearts to be compassionate in both situations. If you find yourself arguing with that premise, please take a few moments to consider why. The two situations have more in common than they have differences. Both are people with loved ones and families left behind; both killed unjustly; both at increased risk just because of an arbitrary characteristic of who they are. Yet, too many of us are picking one side or the other at a time when so much of our community is hurting. When in pain, people often want to find someone to blame, to lash out. There is frustration over the senselessness of the killings. The media does not help by often framing the issue as Police v. Black Man or by giving more time/space to coverage of one situation over another. Social media further amplifies that by largely showing us seemingly unending stories that support whatever side we have chosen. The sheer frequency and volume of stories becomes overwhelming.

This is not a contest and there are no winners. We do not need to pick sides. Click To Tweet

The reality is that white people generally find it much easier to empathize with the unjust killing of a police officer than the unjust killing of a person of color. But here are the facts:

  • Total officers who died in the line of duty (YTD thru 24 July): 69
    • NOTE: Less than half of these are from gunfire. The rest are accidents, heart attacks, etc.
  • Total persons of color killed by police (YTD thru 24 July): 306-348 (race data is not available in some cases)

chattanoogashootingsmit9139100457_t1070_hd7d426fcf169a2b627e71b3619c7644d79cc0582Each of these statistics includes a portion of grossly unjust deaths. Were these numbers reversed, white citizens would be rioting over the injustice and demanding immediate change. Long before the numbers got so lopsided in the other direction, some good ol’ boy with a gun likely would have sought some vigilante justice. We have actually seen the beginnings of such action after a person of color killed several Marines in Tennessee in 2015 and predominantly white people brought their personal weapons and stood guard at recruiting locations.

Yet, we tend to fault our neighbors of color for being upset because people they know and care about are being subjected to unreasonable levels of force and dying as a result of their skin color. At the same time, we reach out to support our local police departments after just a taste of what our neighbors of color experience frequently. We easily empathize with the plight of police officers after the recent high-profile deaths, yet police deaths in the line of duty are NOT actually increased. There is a 0% change as of July 25, 2016, when compared to 2015, according to Officer Down Memorial Page (www.odmp.org).

This is not a contest and there are no winners. We do not need to pick sides. We need to support ALL our neighbors while we work together to reduce the frequency of injustices experienced by everyone. This is not an either/or choice. It can, and should, be both.

NCIL-Banner-Injustice-Anywhere-Is-a-Threat-to-Justice-Everywhere-MLK

About the Author

Joanna Campbell

Joanna was born and raised in Minnesota. She has a degree in Classical Studies/Latin which, logically, led to a career in the banking industry. She also founded and ran a non-profit organization for several years. Along the way, she found the love of her life and a passion for animals. She currently teaches adults to knit and writes things on the internet.