Blaming Beyonce for police officer killings puts a shiver down my spine. Even someone so beloved pays a price for challenging the status quo. It shouldn’t B.
Reactions to her “Formation” video and Super Bowl performance show how we “don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” (Anais Nin).
For some, the video expresses the suffering and resilience of the black experience. For others, its narrative is anti-police.
No doubt the video is popular—28 million views—and no doubt it’s touched a nerve. Police unions in Miami, Tampa and Nashville are calling for a boycott of her music and urging police officers not to work her shows.
One of the purportedly offensive images in the video involves a young boy in a hoodie standing across from a row of police officers in riot gear. But what actually happens? The young boy dances, and then raises his hands to police. The police raise their own hands back in unison; and, in my view, solidarity.
To me, their reciprocal action says, “We don’t want to hurt you.” Hands-up is recognizable as submission on both parts.
National Sheriffs’ Association Director Jonathan Thompson views it quite differently. He sees the boy, the afros, black leather, and the police car sinking in floodwaters as responsible for “inciting bad behavior,” including a rash of police officer killings.
Tennessee Sheriff Robert Arnold echoed this when musing on why shots were fired at his house. Arnold said when he first heard the shots, he wondered if they were inspired by the Super Bowl halftime show. When asked to clarify that comment, he added, “You know, Beyonce’s video.”
According to Officer Down Memorial Page, there have been 6 officers murdered since the Super Bowl.
- Two white officers killed in Maryland—by a white male with two outstanding warrants, one involving assaulting an officer last October. In fear of her safety, the suspect’s ex-wife notified police of his whereabouts. The man was thought to be homeless, was a drinker, had serious mental health problems, and was a military veteran.
- One white officer killed in North Dakota—by a white male whose son called police for help with a domestic disturbance. The suspect had been recently laid off.
- One black officer killed in Georgia—while serving a drug warrant. The suspect is black.
- One white officer killed in Oregon—by a white male with a criminal history dating back to the early 1980’s. The suspect had been jailed 41 times.
- One white officer killed in Mississippi—by a white male during a domestic disturbance.
We’re all deeply saddened by the loss of these and any other police officers. Those that put their lives at risk to protect the rest of us deserve our deepest respect and appreciation.
But, clearly, attributing these incidents to Beyonce is a leap. Five of the six suspects were white. The one black suspect killed a black officer. All had criminal histories or were engaging in criminal behavior at the time police approached them.
Police associations are doing exactly what Anais Nin described—even when the facts don’t fit, people go with their preconceived framework.
The truth is all police aren’t all angels or all devils. Most are good people doing an incredibly honorable job. Some are exceptional, but some have no business working in public safety.
When officers violate public trust, it’s not an indictment on all police officers to want to hold them accountable. The problem comes when systems and organizations lessen accountability and deny or cover up wrongdoing, or, are blind to their own biases and demonize those that speak out.
We see these same ideological blind spots in education policy.
Just this week, two individuals got wrath from organizations hostile to challenges to the status quo:
- Deray McKesson, a Black Lives Matter activist running for Mayor of Baltimore, was characterized by blogger Drew Franklin at the liberal In These Times as a shill for the “sinister” Teach For America.
Franklin, however, failed to mention that McKesson has put forth a detailed set of Pre-K to college education proposals that are about as thoughtful and progressive as it gets.
- Ben Lindy, candidate for Ohio House, was threatened with censure from local Democratic Party leaders because of a paper he wrote in law school that documented how teacher collective bargaining agreements drive educational inequities. Because the study has been cited in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case, Lindy is a target despite the fact he has clearly stated he supports collective bargaining rights.
It’s possible to be both for collective bargaining and critical of what’s in current collective bargaining agreements. Is that so hard to understand?
We all need to be mindful of the inclination to protect our tribe. When facts don’t support accusations or when someone’s character or motive is attacked because they don’t align with an organization’s politics, it’s just wrong.
It would be much better if we put our hands up, stood in solidarity, and recognize truth even when it goes against our biases. Even amongst our differences, we can find ways to solve our problems when we agree that the most important thing is that we don’t want to see anyone hurt anymore.