The edge of the thin blue line
I’m the wife of a cop. I’m surrounded by her brothers and sisters in blue, so many of them I love like family. Being a police spouse — especially right now — is a strange place. It takes my leftist politics and mashes them against a paramilitary structure that sometimes infuriates me. I feel angry and ramble-y and frustrated. These are the contents of my head.
Black Lives Matter & Pro-Cop
So much of the pro-cop discourse is anti-movement. So much of it is right-leaning and angry at black people for daring to say they’re fed up. It talks of “isolated events” as though there is not intrinsic bias and deep-seated racism in the fabric of our society. It’s not a police issue. It is a societal issue — just look at how the data skews on dis/agreement with the grand jury proceedings along race lines. It ignores the humanity of our police, as people who are imperfect and — yes — possessing of racial bias, as are we all. It rings much like the anti-choice movement — coining themselves pro-life. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Similarly, as we’ve seen around the country, in voices that are drowned out by media pushing angry headlines, there are Chiefs of Police standing in solidarity with truly peaceful protesters. Perimeter officers embracing young black men on the other side of the barricades.
I am pro-cop. I am pro- Black Lives Matter. The two are not mutually exclusive.
#notallmen VS #notallcops
There’s a side conversation going on, with disheartened advocates unhappy with the adoption of the hashtag #notallcops. Those advocates are short-sighted. The movement giving voice to the very real spectrum of harassment and danger that women face is discounted by #notallmen. It turns the conversation from being about a real issue and makes it about the petulant child pointing at his brother who did something bad. It doesn’t help anyone. And, it’s unnecessary. The only hurt for men posting #notallmen is emotional, because they’re not being recognized for the good guys they know themselves to be.
#notallcops is a different story. It is important to recognize, publicly and with equal voice, that the vast majority of cops are good, and honorable and true. It is important to recognize that we ask them to stand in front of us when there is danger, especially when we so often fail to have their collective back.
The reality is that there are factions of the Black Lives Matter movement that want to cause real harm to cops, as a retaliatory statement. The world witnessed this yesterday when two NYPD cops were shot, execution style, in apparent retaliation for Eric Garner’s and Michael Brown’s deaths. We see it in media clips of chants, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? NOW!” It’s not the spirit of the movement, and it’s not the majority. But it is a very scary, unfortunate, danger — and a spinter of the reality of this movement at this moment — that all cops face.
Microscopes, Monday-Morning Quarterbacking, Hypervigilance & Hesitation
I’ve heard stories (seriously, so many, I can’t even… cops can talk) about hot scenes, SWAT calls, felony stops, DOA calls, being outnumbered… we’d be here all day if I tried to list them all. The amount of after-the-fact evaluation and critique (of themselves and their colleagues) that I’ve seen outdoes any measure I’ve seen in the business world. We, the not-cops of the world, pale in comparison to the training, evaluation, critique, and self-assesment I’ve seen first-hand, over and over.
And now, there’s the microscope of the world, on each of their shoulders, every moment they are at work. I can’t imagine what that level of inspection does to you. Having to be at that level of hyper-vigilance for shifts on end. I can tell you that it doesn’t end when the uniform comes off. Sit in a restaurant with an off-duty cop, and watch as they take the seat facing the door. Watch as they track every moment for possible danger. Drive home with them and hear about the details you didn’t catch, things or people they saw in the background that heightened their internal threat level, even just a tad.
And now the world asks them to hesitate. To pause. You don’t have to be married to a cop to know that that hesitation is a death sentence. Anyone who has watched any cop show or movie has seen it play out — the cop hesitates, and his partner comes to his rescue and shoots the bad guy. The discussion about why he froze. The back-and-forth about if he’s really ok to do the job.
If our cops have to hesitate now, how do we ask any of them to do the job?
Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Wenjian Liu & Rafael Ramos
In the immediate (and now ongoing) wake of the grand jury announcements in both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, my Facebook feed was awash with fury. My leftist base of friends were irate at the lack of indictments.
Yesterday, when the deaths of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos (Do you know their names, as you know Eric Garner’s and Michael Brown’s? Are they just the two NYPD cops who were shot as they sat in their cruiser?) were covered by every media outlet, there were crickets on my feed. A handful of friends — mostly cops — posted about their murders. Three non-cops posted about it. Three of roughly 100 of my friends who have posted aggressively and often about the grand jury proceedings.
I am disheartened.
Black Lives Matter. Not All Cops. Racism. Officer safety. Being a young black man. Police brutality. Intrinsic bias. Militarization of police. They sometimes dovetail, and they complicate and inform each other, but we have to separate.
We cannot blame all officers for the actions of the few — and yes, it is few. We cannot ignore the data that show us in concrete ways that young black men are at greater risk. We cannot blame individual cops for the ways the systems are broken, or the fact that the fabric of our society is woven with racism and bias.
We have to ask our police to put themselves in the shoes of those that they serve and protect, and we must do them the same courtesy and attempt to understand what it feels like to put on a bullet-proof vest every day and know that you might not come home. We must honor the 113 officers killed in the line of duty in 2014 alone, as we protest and advocate for change at the most base level.
I’ve been so close with so many. So close to clicking that button to unfriend. Facebook is my undoing. A very wise friend — as I’m writing this — sent me a message telling me it might be wise to step away for a while, because my raw frustration, anger and sadness are screaming through right now.
Every time someone posts something racist — like a t-shirt with the slogan, “Breathe easy, don’t break the law,” I want to click unfriend. Every time someone posts something inflammatory about “these racist cops” — blanketing all 800,000 with their mis-aligned advocacy, I want to click unfriend. Some of these people, I love and have known my whole lifetime. Some, I admire in so many other ways. If I did, what would I be left with?
A chorus of voices that echo my own — and that’s not how I’ll learn and grow. That’s not how I have the opportunity to change a person’s heart, just by existing in their universe.