The phrase “black lives matter,” which has been used to draw attention to the problem, has inspired its own pushback, with critics suggesting it means that “blue” (police) lives, or nonblack lives in general, aren’t important. That’s hugely confused.
But any sincere confusion about what the Black Lives Matter movement means and what motivates critics of racialized police violence should end with the news of the circumstances of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher’s death in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last week (to say nothing of the police shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina, of Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday night, the details of which are still unfolding).
After Crutcher’s car stalled on the highway, police responding to a call about an abandoned vehicle, saw Crutcher — who video shows was following instructions and who police have admitted was unarmed — and deemed him “a bad dude” who would need to be tasered. Moments later, officer Betty Shelby shot him dead.
Anyone should be able to see that this was wrong. The fact that it happened, that the officer may or may not be held responsible, and that it hasn’t led to national consensus of horror and outrage paints a clear, simple picture of the reality that people are protesting against when they say “black lives matter.”
This shooting, the latest in a long, long string of similar cases, stands out. Because of the specific circumstances, it’s a tragedy that even people who hold deeply misguided beliefs about black criminality or intense loyalty to police officers should be able to see as such. There are no distractions. Those who can’t identify injustice in this latest textbook example of how racial bias can lead to death probably won’t see it anywhere.
It’s Black Lives Matter 101.