'Blue Lives Matter' Unless They're Black
There's a disturbingly good chance you're unaware that two people were shot and killed Wednesday at a Kroger grocery store in Louisville, Kentucky. Gregory Bush, who is white, was seen in surveillance video trying to enter a predominately black church and possibly pull a Dylann Roof barely 15 minutes before he killed Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, who are both black.
Louisville resident Ed Harrell reportedly was waiting for his wife in the parking lot when he heard gunshots and then crouched by his car with a revolver (because it's Kentucky, so of course he's packing). Harrell called out to Bush to ask what was going on, which I'm going to go ahead and say was dumb. Bush replied, "Don't shoot me. I won't shoot you. Whites don't shoot whites." For someone who lives in the deep South, it's strange that he's never heard of the Civil War.
Harrell watched in shock as Bush got in his car and left. I don't want to judge a likely terrified civilian too harshly, but black people don't normally walk away from encounters like this. "Chill, man. I won't shoot you. Blacks don't shoot.... oh, crap, yeah, I'm dead. I didn't think this through."
You can't expect Donald Trump, who's sort of president, or even Jeff Sessions, who's attorney general until November 7, to comment on a hate crime when they're busy legalizing
hate against transgender Americans. But what about Kentucky's own senior senator, Mitch McConnell? The majority leader and owner of Chuck Schumer's spine hasn't publicly recognized the loss of life or praised law enforcement for catching the killer (Republicans love the last part). No wonder people give him the Quasimodo treatment whenever he's out in public.
I get that this is no Mollie Tibbetts situation. There's no rightwing agenda to advance in exploiting these deaths. FOX News might patiently explain why black people should fear each other black people, just like all red-blooded Americans, but over the past 400 years, we've learned to quantify risk. We don't worry about the new Black Panthers because the old ones weren't as violent as Civil Rights-era Southern police officers. We don't worry about "illegal aliens" breaking into our Minnesota lake houses because we don't have any. "What about Chicago?" is not a pressing question because most of us don't live there and when we visit we steer clear of the bad parts and Second City. No, we're more concerned about random racist psychos killing us when we're at church or the supermarket.
Republicans stoke fears in white voters to get them to the polls. Once there, they vote against gun safety laws because the NRA informs them that the product it pushes can solve all their problems, both real and imaginary. Since both real and imaginary guns can get black folks killed, we're not an easy sell. Our actual fears don't line GOP pockets, so we can scream until we're blue and a white woman calls the cops on us.
Maybe if we want some TLC from the GOP we should all just become cops. Blue lives actually matter, right? Well, about that: Three weeks ago, South Carolina police officer Terrence Carraway was killed during a two-hour standoff with Fred Hopkins, a 74-year-old wackjob, who thanks to the Second Amendment was armed to the teeth and able to shoot seven officers and deputies who tried to serve a warrant at his Florence home. Hopkins, a Vietnam War vet and disbarred lawyer, was somehow taken alive. (Yes, he's white.)
Sgt. Carraway was black, as was Deputy Farrah B. Turner, who endured weeks of probable agony before succumbing to her injuries Monday. She had eight operations while in intensive care, and her feet were amputated last week. Their race is only relevant here because of the chorus of crickets coming from the usual suspects. Trump did express "thoughts and prayers" in a response to Governor Henry McMaster's tweeted condolences, but it lacked the fire and brimstone Trump reserves for when he calls Hispanic gang members "animals." Senator Lindsey Graham said Turner's death was "heartbreaking," but I couldn't help but notice today that he's still tweeting about how "angry" he is over what was "done" to Brett Kavanaugh. Look, the guy is still alive, has both his feet, and is on the Supreme Court. Let it go. But Graham and Trump know what truly angers and motivates their base.
For black lives to truly "matter," our deliberate murders can't just be a "heartbreaking work of staggering randomness." Republicans seethe with rage over a shadowy "far left" cabal who they insist tried to "completely destroy" Kavanaugh. They still seek retribution, no matter how petty. That's all we ask -- though you can turn down the insanity a tad -- of those who literally destroy us.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."