How to respond to “if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you won’t be stopped in the first place.”

The whole point of the protests is that Black people *do* get stopped by police for doing nothing wrong. And when they do get stopped, regardless of whether they have done anything wrong or not, they tend to get treated with more brutality, and tend to be subject to extrajudicial killing by the police more than white people.

This movement is not trying to say that all police officers are bad. It is trying to say that there is room for improvement IN THE SYSTEM, because society teaches us that Black people are bad, evil, violent, etc. So, when a police officer is scared, and I agree that it is a dangerous job, so they are likely to be put in situations where they are scared, they are more likely to pull the trigger on a Black person BECAUSE OF THAT UNDERLYING FEAR THAT SOCIETY HAS TAUGHT THEM (US) TO HAVE of the scary Black people, and especially Black men.

So, if you put any one of us into the same position of making a decision at a split second, probably most of us will feel more threatened by a Black man than we will by a white man. That is not because we are all racist in the “white supremacist” sense of the world. It is because we are all born into a racist society that bakes in our racist thinking from the start. Therefore, I am racist, you are racist, and police officers are racist. 

The issue is that being a police officer in this context means that you have to be very, very, very aware of your societally-inculcated biases so that you do not let your innate fear of Black people cause you to cause them a disproportionate amount of harm. And that is hard to do, because it is hard to make good, calculated decisions based on rational thinking when you are scared.

So, when people say “all lives matter” or “just don’t do anything bad and the problem goes away”, it is clear that they cannot see the full picture. You have to take a step back from the individuals involved and look at the problem from a societal level. 

This movement isn’t about changing the behaviour of a few ultra-racist (in the sense of white supremacist) police officers. White-supremacy-brand racism is a problem, but that is not what this is all about.  This is about a bigger-picture level of bias that is built into society, and that has a disproportionately bad impact on Black people.

So, we shouldn’t take individual offense at this movement. And neither should police officers. We need to use a societal lens to see this problem for what it is, and to try to fix it.