If you’ve heard the speech made by Dallas Police Chief David Brown in the wake of the murders of officers there last week, you probably have some feelings about it… and maybe some questions. His speech is being shared far and wide by the All Lives Matter crowd in an effort to further attempt to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement, and there are definite problems with this.
While Brown himself is black, a fact that’s being mentioned often by the All Lives Matter camp as evidence that he speaks for all people of color, the police chief’s speech perpetuates racist tropes and refuses to take responsibility for problems he and all police could help solve.
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So in case you need a recap, here’s why Dallas PD Chief David Brown’s speech is a problem in regard to police brutality, racism and the current political climate in the United States. Yes, even though he’s black.
1. He assumes protesters don’t have jobs
With a single phrase — “we’re hiring” — Dallas Police Department Chief David Brown used an age-old racist adage. It is not a new cheap shot to insinuate that protesters are lazy and do not have jobs. This is, in part, dog whistle-coded language to say that black people are lazy. Protesters, people who chose to exercise their First Amendment rights, must take time out of their busy schedules to demonstrate for causes they deem important — in this case, police brutality in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in Minnesota within days of each other, both of which resulted in loss of life. That is why there was a protest that night in Dallas in the first place.
2. We still haven’t readily identified that police brutality is a police problem
Chief David Brown said that the police are being asked to do too much, and “that’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems” … “Don’t put that burden all on law enforcement to solve.” While I understand and am glad he understands the limits of his profession within the confines of American society, police brutality is 100 percent a police problem. If all police were well trained, taught to de-escalate situations, taught to disarm without firearms and understood how implicit racial bias can affect them in ways they are not consciously able to control, I believe racially motivated police-involved shootings would drop drastically. Instead, whenever anyone has the gall to say “black lives matter,” instead of saying “you’re right, they do, we should make sure their lives are not in more danger than they ought to be,” we defensively say “blue lives matter,” forgetting some of the dangers that could come with policing, we forget excessive force is, well, excessive, and continue to blame the victims and do nothing. This allows the violence to continue.
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3. He positions murders of police officers as the “real” or more important problem
While this instance was tragic and the largest targeting of cops since 9/11, murders of police are far fewer than those of unarmed civilians shot by police. Additionally, death is an occupational hazard one knows they may encounter when they sign up to be a police officer. One can choose to not be a police officer; one cannot choose to not be black. Being black should not carry just as much risk as being in law enforcement, and in fact, statistics show the risk is far greater. Just ask all these black cops who were profiled while off duty because their fellow officers thought they looked suspicious. Finally, though there certainly are dangers in being a police officer, this job is not the most dangerous job and deserves to be looked at in that context and in this light when looking to solve the issue that is excessive police force.
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4. Yes, the comments are still problematic even though he is a black man
While the killing of unarmed civilians affects Americans of all races, it affects Native Americans and African-Americans at the highest rate. However, because of media sensationalism and poor understanding of how racism and white supremacy operate in the wild, many on both sides of the issue try to sell a black/brown vs. white storyline even when not applicable. The truth is, all of us, whether we are black or white or Asian, are living in this American society, a society that places the lives of Native American, black and Latino people below those of white people. So when you live in that society, you often readily absorb that racism and white supremacy regardless of your own race and ethnicity. This is why there are also black and Asian police officers that have used excessive force against (other) people of color.
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