THIS PAST YEAR SHOWED A MASSIVE AWAKENING IN THE FIGHT AGAINST INJUSTICE, BUT HAS UNFORTUNATELY LED TO A DIVIDED COUNTRY
As Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and demonstrations struck the nation last summer, many thought the dilemma was obvious: you’re either on the law enforcement’s side or you support Black Lives Matter. As tensions have risen, many have wondered if it’s even possible to be an ally to both communities, but some have managed to strike a balance.
Despite what seems like a monumental division between law enforcement officers and Black Lives Matter, the majority of police officers view Black Lives Matter positively. This depends on many factors, including the race of the police officer; there are 72% of officers of color supporting the movement, and only 45% of white officers supporting it.
This goes far beyond supporting Black Lives Matter as an organization, but backing an important change to very controversial police practices. Fifty-nine percent of police officers are in favor of banning no-knock warrants, the very practice that got Breonna Taylor killed by law enforcement in her own home. Sixty-eight percent of officers support banning chokeholds, seeing the unnecessary harm they cause after outrage emerged from George Floyd’s death. Most police officers are also willing to hold themselves accountable by supporting the use of body cams and reporting all stops and uses of force.
So, if many officers are willing to make changes, why does it feel like the police and BLM are opposing forces?
The media plays a huge role in promoting this ongoing battle between those who are meant to protect and serve and those who are fighting for social justice. Many far left or right media outlets, such as CNN or Fox News, make viewers feel as if they can not be an ally to both causes, when in reality police officers and BLM want to achieve the same thing: equal safety for all.
The phrase ACAB works to further this narrative. ACAB stands for “All Cops are Bastards” and originally started in the 1940s by workers on strike. Contrary to popular belief, the phrase is not a personal vendetta against all police officers themselves, but rather the system and practices in place today. The phrase means that police officers are still supporting an outdated racist system that regards the average person of color, regardless of age or history, as much more dangerous than the average white person. Though the phrase has helped many rally around Black Lives Matter, it has greatly confused those who feel stuck in the middle. It also doesn’t help convince police officers to support BLM if they feel everyone sees them as the enemy.
So how can we support and motivate the officers who recognize the system’s faults and are open to change?
The first step is to acknowledge that BLM is not just directed toward law enforcement but the nation as a whole. Black Lives Matter aims to stop racial injustice in all aspects of life and to shed light on the struggles that African Americans face on a daily basis.
Both sides also need to acknowledge that neither one is the enemy, but that they are both just fighting for what they believe in. Black police officers take the brunt of the impacts, as they feel stuck between work and life.
Tyronne Dodson, former Metropolitan Police Department officer in Washington D.C., constantly asks himself how he would react if he were still serving today. Though he is relieved to not have to face the protestors head-on, he still struggles with how to balance his personal identity with his career. He believes that if Americans realized that most officers are on their side and just want peace, the country can move forward and start to work together instead of fighting each other.
After all, if a black police officer can strike a balance between supporting his community and his colleagues, maybe there is hope for the rest of us.