I have to begin this column by stating that I am tired. I have reached such a high point of desensitization — as I am sure many other Black Americans have — against the continuous loss of Black life that continuing to fight has started to feel hopeless. In a Sep. 2020 column, I wrote about the links between our current policing system and the enforcement of slave patrols after the abolishment of slavery and ultimately advocated for defunding the police. Since my writing of this column, my opinion has taken a definitive shift from defund the police to abolish the police. It is important to have a conversation on this shift as well as how it relates to the statement “blue lives matter.”
I have wanted to revisit my previous opinions on the police for quite some time, but after I found out the verdict of the Derek Chauvin case as well as the shooting of Ma’Kiah Bryant — not even a full minute later — I have a renewed sense of purpose. It is evident to me that if there was no tape, Chauvin would get off scot-free and George Floyd’s death would just be labeled as a medical incident or be completely dismissed. I would not be surprised to find many people claiming that because Derek Chauvin has been found guilty and can face jail time, justice has been served. It has not. This verdict was step one in holding Chauvin accountable for his actions, though he still has not taken accountability himself which is evident by what I assumed was a confused look on his face when he was declared guilty. Full justice requires that the entire system that put George Floyd in a grave be eradicated.
Why would I want to uphold a system that can justify a 16-year-old girl being killed within 20 seconds of police approaching the scene? Why would I want to uphold a system that would even want to try and justify the cop pulling out a gun when a taser would have been enough to subdue Ma’Kiah Bryant, who was defending herself with a knife against girls who were jumping her. Adding to the heartbreaking nature of this shooting is the claim by Ma’Kiah’s mother that she was being jumped and called the police for help. A moment that was quite sickening for me — excluding the actual bodycam footage of this teenage girl being shot in the chest four times — was footage of police at the scene of Ma’Kiah Bryant’s shooting saying, “blue lives matter.”
I can confidently say with my chest that blue lives do not matter. Blue lives do not matter because blue lives do not exist. To say blue lives matter, especially among the midst of the police unjustly shooting someone, is tone-deaf — a uniform can be taken off, but the color of someone’s skin cannot. I cannot deny that cops have been sought out and killed because of their profession, but this cannot compare to the danger BIPOC communities have faced based on the color of their skin. People have not actively sought to ruin blue lives at the same magnitude of Black lives. People have not actively sought to rip apart blue families at the same magnitude of Black families. People have not actively sought out to needlessly end blue lives just because they are blue, as they have Black lives just because they are Black. Blue lives are not at stake and never have been to the same degree as Black and brown lives in America.
In that column from September 2020, I talked about how after slavery was abolished, white southerners pushed for laws that would force Black people back to work in their fields. Slave patrols were the ones to enforce said laws and evolved into what we see today as the police. Because of the origins of the policing systems, it has remained an inherently racist institution. Its legacy not only stretches back to slave patrols, but also has a history of supporting white supremacy groups like the Ku Klux Klan as well as the patterns of racialized brutality on BIPOC communities.
My previous opinion on defunding the police was based on the belief that violent crimes would require proper intervention that only police could provide. While this still may be true, I can no longer be okay with the amount of BIPOC lives lost at the hands of police in the name of greater law and order. I now believe that we need an entirely new public safety system based in social and economic equity that is cushioned by a system of nonviolent emergency responders. I advocate for America taking that money that would be spent on police and use it to spend much more on education, health care and infrastructure.
Ever since policing’s beginnings as slave patrols, the system has profited off of Black fear and allowed white people to experience “protect and serve” while Black and brown people are forced to experience “law and order.” Policing originated in the purpose of protecting and serving white people at Black people’s expense resulting in over-policing of BIPOC people in the name of law and order. Conversations such as these cannot end with just the police because we need a full system reset. The conversation needs to be about the entire system. Cut it out with the bad apple talk when the whole tree is obviously rotten. I am angry, and I’m allowed to be angry.
Aliyah D. White is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.