Blue Lives Murder
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
by Caitlyn Hill
What does it mean to emit the phrase, “blue lives murder”? In the majority of cases, it is to draw attention to a defect. To align oneself with the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless others who have been unjustly victimized by police brutality, and a fundamentally flawed system which makes a mockery of justice. Although this is usually the actual intent behind this phrase, what does it truly mean––how does it sound upon reaching the ears? Furthermore, what does it indicate when this phrase is paired with the slogan “Black Lives Matter”?
The phrase black lives matter is alright because it, in and of itself, does not present a generalization––it is merely a statement of fact. Black lives matter. Duh. So do Asian lives, and Hispanic lives, and, at the end of the day, white lives. Life matters. The novelty of this phrase is not the fact that life matters, but rather that it boldly states a fact which, in our society, is all too frequently ignored. It places a magnifying glass on black life, reminding those who would otherwise be disinclined to notice it that we continue to exist. We continue to struggle. We continue to matter. So ultimately, the phrase black lives matter is more than just alright. The phrase black lives matter is ingenious.
Yet to pair it side by side with the phrase “blue lives murder” unwittingly perverts this phrase. To a maxim whose main beauty rests in its lack of bias, in its indisputability, pairing with a phrase such as blue lives murder does exactly that. It necessarily introduces a value judgement. It suggests that while all black lives do is matter, the mere existence of blue lives is murderous.
Growing up as a black female, I’ve always been wary of placing stock into sweeping generalizations. More so than the mild offense it might inspire within the referenced parties, I am wary of the sensation these broad generalizations inspire within their creators and adopters. It’s a feeling of power to be able to tuck one issue away under a mere phrase––to declare that one has studied the issue, understood it, and summarized it into a simple byline that can now be utilized in order to explain away different phenomena. This power has been the tool of far too many hate campaigns and demagogues for me to view it without suspicion.
And what am I, as a black woman, to do with this particular generalization, this phrase, “blue lives murder”? Am I to feel mollified, that the deaths of my brethren can be so succinctly tucked away beneath such a blanket? Am I to feel horrified at the implications––that every officer I see on the streets is merely another murder waiting to happen? What are we as a society to do with such a phrase? If a phrase as innocuous, and frankly bizarre, as the one “black people are monkeys” has the power to produce such a legacy of lasting pain and resentment, what are the ramifications of one so blatantly inflammatory as this?
I know what is meant by the phrase blue lives murder. I know it is intended to produce shock, and even outrage. I know it is meant to spark thoughts; to jolt people into action, whatever that action might be. Yet herein lies the problem: what might that action be? Within this phrase seems to be an allowance for absolutely anything that might be done to counteract these faceless, murderous blue lives––whether this be in an action as simple as spitting on the stoop of your local police station, or as catastrophic as bombing said station. While I know this phrase is not meant to inspire or condone such actions, mine is not the only mouth into which this phrase will land. In a society that has spent so long brewing fear and consequent anger into an entire race of people, this phrase can easily enough be converted into a deadly weapon.
For far too long, our society has been balanced on a pinhead of denial, oppression, and outright blindness. Fall it must, and in the wake of recent events, it would appear we are beginning this ever so necessary descent. Yet I admit I am afraid to either align myself with or to find myself within a nation whose mantra is “blue lives murder”. For a society cannot afford to be built upon the guilt, oppression, or shame of a number of its members. We have trod that path before, and it has led us here. To build a new society, we must seek one another’s humanity. We must seek out empathy, and relentlessly pursue the understanding that we are all human beings, protecting the significance of each individual’s story. I believe that as we do our best to take action, and to guide our society to reestablish itself, we must think carefully about the slogans under which we choose to unite, and strive to combat hatred, as well as ignorance, as we carry on the fight.