I haven’t kept up with the story about the two murdered NY police officers, so I looked up the story on Wikipedia. I shouldn’t have. My fears have been realized – the shooting has derailed the conversation about police violence, the need for reform, and racism completely. The conversation is now about how the Brown/Garner protests caused this tragedy, and how if it weren’t for all the anti-police rhetoric, this never would have happened.
All of that, of course, is so much BS. It’s much easier to focus on the choices of a single person and claim that those horrid choices are the result of all this upheaval and turmoil. It’s true that he probably seized on the protests and all the anger and outrage as a way to express his own anger, outrage, and violent tendencies. But he already had a long-established pattern of violence – he wasn’t suddenly radicalized by civil rights protests. He had a serious set of baggage before the protests even began.
Right now, what I feel is a sense of mourning, the loss of an opportunity-in-the-making for us to discuss some incredibly difficult and complex and hurtful issues. This event, while tragic, now provides a way for one group to shift the conversation in another useless direction. The police and their unquestioning supporters are more defensive than ever, less open to discussion, more prone to attack, to vitriolic rhetoric, and to framing themselves as suffering victims and martyrs.
I had hoped that the events of Garner/Brown would at least result in keeping the conversation going – however ugly and uncomfortable it might be. Now, it isn’t only business as usual, it’s a case of the victims being required, again, to comfort and reassure their oppressors.