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The Meaning of BLM

If you are involved in the land use/land ownership/treaty rights/fed v state Sagebrush Rebellion dust-ups over the years you know that it refers to the Bureau of Land Management, but we are going to leave that hornets’ nest aside for today.

If you are African American or watching the horrific shootings of unarmed black people in US cities, you know that it means the Black Lives Matter movement.

If you are a police officer or otherwise deeply disturbed by the recent spate of cop killings, you argue that it is Blue Lives Matter.

The numbers are terrible. So far, in 2016, a tragic 33 police officers have been shot dead on duty. An ungodly 551 people have been shot dead by cops as of 31 July this year. Last year young black males were nine times more likely to be killed by police than any other sector of the US population—1,134 people killed by police in 2015 and although black males between the ages of 15-34 are two percent of the US, they are 15 percent of those killed by police. While 17 percent of white victims of police killings were unarmed, the rate was 25 percent for young black males.

This is unacceptable to everyone. Dead Americans—cops or citizens—are a profound tragedy.

Most black people who shoot at cops do not live to be tried and when they are they are almost invariably convicted. Most cops who kill black people, armed or unarmed, have utter confidence that they will never be charged or, if they are, they will never be convicted, even when video evidence shows a crystal clear case of an officer shooting a compliant, hands-empty and raised victim or an unarmed fleeing suspect who committed no violent crime and was no threat to anyone.

This should be unacceptable to everyone.

Police boast frequently about their own bravery. Where is that vaunted courage when they witness one of their own obviously murder an unarmed civilian? We see virtually no bold selflessness in those cases. Instead, our “good” cops act more like good Germans, silent in the face of blatant lawbreaking by their brothers in blue.

It is long past time for us to fix all this. At the root are three problems. One, the idea that violence solves conflict, that we must have guns, and that the Second Amendment should continue to allow mass proliferation of these instruments of death. Two, racism. Three, the addition of the return of so many veterans of war only adds to the likelihood that both cops who are war veterans and African Americans who are war veteran–and who are angry about all the black victims of police killings—will ratchet up the violence.

The intersection produces what we see.

When we authentically begin to dismantle all three of these massive problems we will see a reversal of the ghastly trends toward state violence and violent insurrection. In Wichita, both BLM movements veered away from violence and toward reconciliation, starting with a picnic. In Dallas, Black Lives Matter activists vigiled in mourning for slain police. Each of us can do our own small but important best to help with one or more of these problems and collectively, we can begin repair and healing. Our attitudes, our actions, our intelligent voting this fall, will all make a difference.

Let’s fix this.

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Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice

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