Saturday, March 12, 2016

What happens when you call out the police association's Blue Lives Matter campaign in a small town

Canada - ON - Town of Port Hope Police (very old style)

Photo by Dave Conner
A few days ago, I saw a tweet from the police department in a small town a few miles from my home, the town where I grew up and where my son goes to school. The Port Hope Police announced that they would be fundraising by selling T-shirts bearing the slogan "Blue Lives Matter."
A day or so after that, I tweeted the police to let them know the slogan was an offensive appropriation of the language of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Then I sent an email. Then I created a petition.
The T-shirts will no longer be sold by the Police Department at the station, but the Police Association (a separate entity made up of the same people) continues to sell them.

Some other local women have joined the discussion and we're working together to come up with positive ways of moving forward as a whole community. We don't aim to be armchair critics. We do want to participate in the creative action of accountability and restoration that are part and parcel of a healthy community. We believe the best immediate steps are for the Port Hope Police Association to stop selling "Blue Lives Matter" t-shirts, and to apologize and acknowledge that this was an error.


While we wait, with hope, for that outcome, here's a window into life over the past few days.

Here's what happens when you call out a small town police association's "Blue Lives Matter" campaign:


-you emphasize your overall support of the police, over and over
-you get warned that they may refuse your 9-11 call, that they are "known for their thuggery"
-a local news site ignores your messages, and instead prints the Police Association's press release
-you are accused of starting a "morally superior media circus"
-when you ask the police spokesperson for contact information for the Police Association, he gives you a PO Box number in an email sent from his Blackberry
-a news article about the police defending their fundraiser is shared on a horrifically racist Twitter feed promoting the hashtag #BlackLiesMatter
-messages telling you to shut up pile up in your Facebook "Other" inbox
-you sweat and shake and you do the interview anyway
-you calculate how many times you're likely to need the police in the future, just in case
-you realize your own immense privilege
-you brainstorm new slogans, new fundraising ideas
-you find yourself introduced in a newspaper article as "a woman"
-you learn a lot about the women who founded the #BlackLivesMatter campaign and their guiding principles*
-trolls universally want you to "get a job"
-you hear through back channels that some of the force's police officers and high ranking town officials agree with you — but none will speak publicly
-a neighbour, a woman of colour, tells you "a small scared part of me believes they knew what they were doing, a scared part of me believes they don't care how I'd feel seeing them wear those shirts"
-you have a growing collection of hater message screen caps, just in case
-just before hanging up, a reporter says "What do I call you: 'Cobourg mother of one?'" and you reply "I actually have two kids" and he's gone before you think to add anything more
-a local newspaper journalist announces on live radio that people of colour and women are more likely to be hired in Canada than "anyone else"
-you send Beyonce GIFs
-in a step out of the ordinary, you lock your door at night
-the local appliance repair guy calls into the local radio station to ask why it's so dangerous for people to criticize anything to do with the police
-you hear "It's just three words on a T-shirt" more times than you can count
-another Ontario Police Chief calls to tell you he understands your concern and to extend support
-you receive a message from a local woman of colour who wants to "personally thank you"


Click here to read more, or to sign the petition (please!).


*Click here to read more about #BlackLivesMatter and their incredible guiding principles: "We are committed to embodying and practicing justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another."

11 comments:

Marta Cooper Burt said...

Good for you, Meghan, for having the courage to do what's right. You know you're not alone in your thoughts and feelings about those T-shirts, but you seem to be the face of the protest. Being the focus of attention isn't your habit, making this even less comfortable for you, I imagine. You are strong. Thank you for showing your strength.

Account Closed said...

Thank you for your courage in doing this. Let's hope those involved realize this was not a well thought out idea and apologize.

Tony

ourmontessorilife.com said...

Wow. Fantastic post Meghan. What I hope of them is that there is an apology. What I expect of them is that research, thought and care are used going forward.

MistahTibbs said...

Shorter: Look at me! I'm a martyr for the cause!

Virtue signalling at its finest. smh

#bluelivesmatter

Linda MacKenzie-Nicholas said...

Good job Meghan. It certainly is not always easy standing up for what's right. Myself - I love my community - so on this issue, I alternate between feeling sad or embarrassed with regards to this action as a fundraiser by the Port hope police association.

ph said...

Thank you for this. There are a whole lot of people who support you.

Tony Thompson said...

Thanks for doing this.
I'm so, so, so tired of this Blue Lives Matter nonsense. It's an obvious reaction from folks who think that black peoples' criticism of excessive violence on the part of police is somehow anti-police. It's not. It's a call for police to do their jobs better. To engage all citizens fairly and equitably. To use the minimal level of force necessary to resolve a situation. To get cops to not reach for their guns when dealing with potential black suspects. To get cops to understand the existence of subconscious biases that affect their judgement of black people (biases that don't exist in their dealings with white suspects). And to get cops to understand that our perception of how we're treated by law enforcement is that they feel our lives don't matter.

And to the people who think the "Blue Lives Matter" BS is a reasonable thing to say as a response to the assertion that Black Lives Matter, I implore you to engage your brains and think for a minute.
Black Lives Matter activists protest the disproportionate application of police violence against African-Americans as well as the wider criminal justice system and its discrimination against black people. We think Black Lives are treated as less valuable bc of the messages our culture sends about Black Lives:

-the documented disproportionate use of force on the part of cops against black people
-the disproportionate presence of black people in prison
-the War on Drugs which disproportionately affects black people
-the documented disproportionate use of lethal force on the part of cops against black people
-the school-to-prison pipeline
-redlining
-the harsher sentencing black criminals face in court compared to the sentencing faced by white criminals who commit the same crime
-white flight
and so much more.
These are among the reasons black people feel their lives are devalued in this country and none of these reasons applies to police. Police officers-as a group-experience no marginalization, no discrimination, no bigotry. They are not oppressed socially, politically, or economically. Moreover, police officers are entrusted with power greater than the average citizen. It is incumbent upon them to use that power wisely and responsibly and a great many of them are not doing so. Hence the criticism they are facing from Black Lives Matter activists. At no point in the history of this country have the lives of police officers faced anything akin to the discrimination, oppression, and inequality faced by black people.

And *that* is why the whole "Blue Lives Matter" campaign is utter B.S.

Trelani Chapman said...

I'm proud to know you Meghan. You are up against it. Don't let your voice be drowned out with rhetoric because so many people agree with you and support you.

Jae said...

Thank You so much for doing this!

As a black woman this means so much to me! This moved my soul, touched my heart, renewed my faith.

You have strength of character, strength of conviction and are a HERO.

It's not very often that I hear someone who is not black be so outspokenly supportive of the blacklivesmatter movement or anti-discrimination movements in general.

Most of the time when I hear whites speak of racial discrimination it is about the discrimination they perceive they face by employment equity, federal funding for aboriginal university education, aboriginal tax exemptions. TRULY

It is extremely disheartening for me to think of all the times I don't hear white people speak out for minorities and I think, "Wow, if white people are not able to empathize with and feel compelled to SPEAK out on the obvious issue of unarmed black men being killed by police officers or police carding, or racist jokes, or any form of oppression they really would never have been compelled to DO anything if I didn't have civil rights or if I was a slave."

It's not that most people are actively rascist, it's just that they passively turn a blind eye to it which is worse. Because it's benefitting from oppression under the pretence of not being the oppressor. And really when it comes to oppression if you aren't part of the solution, you are ACTIVELY part of the problem.

As a black person I always wonder, are we so inhuman to white people that when we STRUGGLE for substantive equality by saying #BlackLivesMatter it can only be interpreted as an outrageous and unjustified demand? How? I don't believe that there is a reasonable logical person who could interpret the movement other than what it is, as a call for substantive equality. This means, that when people attempt to undermine the movement by saying ALLlivesmatter BLUElivesmatter they are engaging in subterfuge and racially coded language to maintain an oppressive system.

Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Unknown said...

Thank you for taking this on, it's not easy to challenge the police. In particular I appreciate your awareness of your privileged position as a white person in standing up to authority figures. It is shameful that white allies have louder voices and are taken more seriously than the racialized minorities who actually experience race-based oppression, but that is all the more reason for us to use our voices and our votes to continue pushing for equality.

Unknown said...

were/are police being beaten, incarcerated, targeted? murdered with impunity?