Criticisms of Black Lives Matter

At some point in my life, I realized that my actions around law enforcement officers had to lie well outside of the boundaries of ambiguity. If my movements could be perceived as remotely threatening, then there was a very real possibility that they would be met with lethal force.

I did not come to this realization before the age of twelve.

That was the age of Tamir Rice at the time he was shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann. The shooting and subsequent death of Tamir Rice along with a grand jury’s recent decision not to indict Officer Loehmann have sparked further Black Lives Matter protests, and with each protest comes the usual criticisms.

Some critics suggest that the efforts of Black Lives Matter protesters are misguided. They point to the number of black males killed by other black males in America’s inner cities as more worthy of attention. While it is an important issue, it is distinct from violence inflicted by police officers. Interestingly, in many high-crime areas, there are recreational centers, religious and nonprofit organizations, and youth groups devoted to ending violence. Whether they are receiving attention from the public and sufficient resources is not entirely up to them.

The Black Lives Matter movement often focuses on raising awareness of the extrajudicial killings of black people by police officers, police misconduct, and broader issues of racial bias in the criminal justice system. Surely Americans are free to express concern about any cause they choose despite its size or scope. In 2014, over 8,000 times more Americans died of suicide than Islamist terrorist attacks in the United States, and yet a recent Gallup Poll found that one out of six Americans identifies terrorism as the most significant U.S. problem.

Perhaps matters involving race still elicit emotional reactions because race is still a deeply rooted issue in America. Perhaps instances of excessive force by law enforcement officers garner public attention for the same reason as unlawful activity by politicians and sexual misconduct of teachers and priests. These individuals are part of institutions that the public relies on for society to operate smoothly. There is an implied agreement between them and the public. American citizens trust these people with their hearts, minds, and bodies. The consequences of their misconduct can be far-reaching.

Others may argue that many blacks killed by law enforcement officers are faced with heightened distrust because they live in high-crime areas. What that means, of course, is that law enforcement officers are not judging citizens independently; rather, individuals undeservedly bear the same burden of suspicion as the most criminal members of their community. I can only assume that is how a 12-year-old boy playing alone with a toy gun became a threat to an officer’s life.