Police Brutality: Black, Blue, or All Lives?

Beginning with the tragic death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in 2012, the past few years have seen an increased amount of publicized deaths of unarmed Black people — children, teenagers, and adults. Now, four years since Martin’s death, there have been at least four more highly publicized deaths — Tamir Rice (12 years old, Ohio); Eric Garner (43 years old, New York), Sandra Bland (28 years old, Texas); Mike Brown (18 years old, Missouri). These deaths have prompted the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement, and subsequently movements that aim to spread different messages, such as the All Lives Matter movement, and the Blue Lives Matter movement. The Black Lives Matter movement aims to center the Black experience and focus on police brutality in America, while the All Lives Matter movement aims to counter the Black Lives Matter movement, by not specifically focusing on Black Lives. The Blue Lives Matter movement aims to focus on the risk that police officers incur every day while working in the streets. In terms of framing, each movement chooses a specific focus in alienation of the other — all three sides of the issue at hand, police brutality, lack the inclusion of the specific perspective of the others that would provide a comprehensive look at the issue.

What does the issue look like in the media?

  1. All Lives Matter:
    The main response to the Black Lives Matter movement is the All Lives Matter movement. The All Lives Matter movement states that the attention should not be solely on Black people and their lives, because the importance of human life is not exclusive. An article titled “How Would Dr. King Have Felt about ‘Black Lives Matter’” frames the movement within the context of Dr. King’s teachings, stating that his viewpoints would have been different than what Black leaders’ stances are today. The author sends of a message of credibility to his readers, mentioning at the beginning his career as a former Civil Rights worker. He states that Dr. King would have advocated for integration, and the leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement are separatists. The diction in this article — words such as separatist and integrationist are repeated to reach a point about the author’s belief in division. Dr. King’s ideals is used as the primary framing tool, as a relatable person for all readers, further underscoring the author’s point about integration. The author states that Dr. King would have more than likely supported All Lives Matter instead of Black Lives Matter. He mentions the latter by way of pointing out its flaws.
    Read this article here: https://pjmedia.com/diaryofamadvoter/2016/01/17/mlk-versus-blm/;

2. Blue Lives Matter

The Blue Lives Matter movement is a response to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Its central message states that police lives should be getting widespread attention, as police officers put their lives on the line every day. In this article, popular food chain Chick-Fil-A, has given its employees Blue Lives Matter t-shirts to wear while they are working. The shirts read “Go Blue or Go Home” and “Back the Blue.” The article is written objectively, but one of the opening sentences mentions states that “tensions between the Black Lives Matter movement and law enforcement around the nation [are] still high,” alluding to the idea that the sides have opposing views. The article includes a picture of an employee wearing the shirt, Chick-Fil-A’s cow and a small boy wearing a shirt, and also features tweets from members within the community who are supportive of the decision. All images feature White people, which may be an underlying message; the primary Tweet used features a white police officers who states that Chick_Fil-A is one of the only places he feels comfortable eating when he is on duty. The article does mention an instance of a Starbucks worker writing #blacklivesmatter on a police officer’s coffee cup in Providence, Rhode Island. Additionally, the article connects the purpose of the shirts to also supporting the local high school football team, to frame the movement as wholesome and positive. The site itself reports objectively for the most part, but frames issues from a conservative point of view (it repeatedly reports on conservative figured and issues in the United States, more so than liberal ones). It conclusion, this article frames Blue Lives Matter as positive and community-oriented, but does not include the perspective of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Read this article here:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/11/09/they-are-on-our-streets-every-day-texas-chick-fil-a-takes-a-very-public-stance-that-police-lives-matter/;

3. Black Lives Matter

In an article titled #BlackLivesMatter, this article profiles one of the founders of the movement, Alicia Garza, beginning with a short anecdote about her experience when the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case was announced. The title itself compares Black Lives Matter movement to that of the Civil Rights Movement, which is a powerful comparison that suggests the legitimacy of the movement. The article makes a clear effort to point out the intersectionality involved in the movement, citing that Garza’s husband is transgender, and another prolific activist, Deray Mckesson, is a gay man. In addition, in the beginning of the article, there is mention of Garza’s attempts to contact other activists in causes such as immigrant rights. The purpose of this is to frame the movement as all-inclusive, and as one likely to receive support from other worthy causes, therefore deeming it trustworthy and honest. Furthermore, the inclusion of short biographies of other figures in the movements and their involvement, as well as how social media connects people across the nation, gives the article a warm feel, evoking a familial sense. The rest of the article lists examples about why the movement was created and why it remains necessary, citing the disadvantage of Blacks and Black youths in various realms, like education, in the United States. The author uses statistics to substantiate their claims. In short, this article frames the Black Lives Matter Movement as the principle perspective, with the primary interviewee being a founder of movement — it does not make mention of the response movements, All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.
Read this article here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/19/blacklivesmatter-birth-civil-rights-movement;

So What Does All This Mean?

Overall, police brutality is a current “issue” in society, and a hot topic in current media discourses. As demonstrated above, the issue itself was brought into the spotlight recently by the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement, and subsequently highlighted further as response movements — All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter — have surfaced. Generally speaking, all of the movements have galvanized US society in its conversations about race, and the predominant relations between White and Black — relations that this country was built on. In each movement, police brutality is framed differently, and usually with some attention to the Black Lives Matter as the primary opposition or view. It is imperative for news consumers to look at all three sides of the issue to achieve a comprehensive understanding, and for the issue to be framed within all sides of the conversation. Police brutality itself is controversial, evident by the amount of conversation it generates nationally.

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