Black Lives Matter, The Police, And The Nature Of False Dichotomies

Managing Editor, Life
07.13.16 32 Comments
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Positions are hardening, to use President Obama’s term. Lines are being drawn in the sands of social media. Either you’re pro Black Lives Matter or pro police — we see it every day on our feeds. It’s tough to find the nuance, especially with our favored sources feeding us more and more of the stuff we want to hear and like-minded friends bolstering our biases. All sides are deeply entrenched, heels dug in the soil.

Black Lives Matter vs. the cops. It’s rarely written that way, but it’s implied when officers abandon their posts at a basketball game because the players choose to wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts, when a conservative commentator calls BLM “the new KKK”, or when media narratives tie the actions of a lone extremist to the entire organization. Over and over we see the two positions treated like trains headed straight at each other. You can only be on one train and you’d better hold on because they’re going to crash. It’s indicative of our time in history, in which the side you’re on seems to be a bigger and bigger part of everyone’s personal identity.

But it’s all wrong. There are no trains. The paths being trod are interwoven, but not oppositional. They form a Venn diagram, not a pie chart. The very notion that Black Lives Matter and the police are diametrically opposed is a false dichotomy, it suggests an “either/or” dilemma that just isn’t real. Look at the Wall Street Journal’s Red Feed/Blue Feed entries connected to these recent shootings — the warring narratives are unrecognizable, though the core information is identical, setting us up for a whole bunch of failed logic. Blue lives and black lives are being pitted against one another.

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In the calm cool light of day, these false dichotomies are easy to recognize. Of course you can be supportive of the police and the vital role they play in our society, while still wanting justice for Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the millions of black men who live in fear of unwarranted police violence. As Trevor Noah put it, “In reality, you can be pro cop and pro black.”

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