Tired of the Violence Yet?

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the mass shooting event in Chattanooga. Five service members died a year ago at the hands of someone who believed the only way to expiate his sins was through the blood of other people. Last week I had talked about the epidemic of people being killed. Unfortunately that trend is still continuing. As of this morning, three police officers in Baton Rouge were attacked and murdered. At this point, much is still unknown about who did this shooting or even how many people were involved. Over the next days and weeks more details will emerge on the who and why but the situation is still the same: people are dead at the hands of other people.

The ongoing violence in our country appears to be escalating. We seem to be stuck in a spiral of ever-increasing numbers of shootings. As a country we are becoming increasingly polarized and less empathic with people outside our groups. Demonization of people outside our circles is more common and a spiraling trend of violence seems to be rising from this.

As humanists we should recognize when people want to divide us into groups and set us against each other. We should call out when we recognize an attempt to place a false dichotomy upon us. All lives do matter but we need to recognize when a portion of the population is suffering in far greater proportion than the rest. Currently, black men are far more likely to be pulled over by police, are far more likely to be arrested, and are far more likely to be injured or killed when they encounter police. We need to recognize that if all lives do matter, we should look to those who suffer the most and we should help them first. If we can reduce the number of incidents where black men are injured or killed, we can reduce the number of shootings overall. People want you to divide you by saying if you say “black lives matter” then you are automatically against “blue lives matter”. This is a false dichotomy. You can be dismayed by the deaths of police officers AND by the deaths of young black men at the hands of the police.

Time and again, I have seen that people do not act until they are directly affected. Do you want to wait until someone you know has been killed? A acquaintance? A friend? A family member? How long until someone you know is a victim?


2 thoughts on “Tired of the Violence Yet?

  1. dannyisme says:

    Not quite a rebuttal, but some thoughts on what you wrote:
    The article I quoted above says, “For an increasing number of behavioural scientists … this prosocial lack of violence looks like a fundamental aspect of human nature — the human ability to generate in-group amity often goes hand in hand with out-group enmity. Using computer simulations, economists Jung-Kyoo Choi from Kyungpook National University in South Korea and Samuel Bowles from the University of Siena in Italy have produced models in which altruism and war co-evolve, promoting conflict between groups and greater harmony within them. “It all falls into place when you see the evidence that early humans lived in small, competing groups,” says Hinde. “Your group was more successful if you cooperated with its members but not with outsiders.”
    I tend to think that what we are seeing with Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter is the formation of two competing in-groups, in which there is both amity toward fellow insiders and enmity toward outsiders. It is this natural competition that we are witnessing today.
    But I want to take it a step further and suggest that the respective in-groups under observation are far broader than their names imply. For example, I am not Black yet I identify with Black Lives Matter in a far broader sense as being representative of marginalized groups at large, be they Black, Hispanic, the GLBTQ community, atheists, 99 percenters, fill in the blank. On one hand, I recognize that this is an unfair appropriation of Black suffering for my personal agenda and needs, I justify it to myself in the name of coalition-building – as long as I recognize that the issue at stake now is Black lives, and that this be the focus of actions taking place now. Black Lives Matter is about Black lives, but it is also a clarion call to other marginalized groups to stand up to oppression. There is amity among the insiders, and, let’s face it, a certain degree of enmity toward the outsiders.
    Blue Lives Matter is, in some ways, similar. It can be read as a coalition, not just among policemen, but for all people who advocate and adhere to a more authoritative approach to the rule of law, even if it means maintaining the status quo. In its most extreme manifestations, it implies a certain infallibility among the police as agents and protectors of the existing power structures. Protests by those who feel marginalized by the existing order can, therefore, be seen as an inherent threat.
    Two sets of lives matter: the marginalized, and yes, the marginalizers too.
    Of course, there are countless points of intersection between these two groups. There are plenty of Black cops who might identify with Black Lives Matter’s concerns on a personal level. There are plenty of people in marginalized communities who would like to see more (fair) policing in their neighborhoods to ensure their personal safety and well-being. On the other hand, it is also worth examining whether, as mentioned above, “in-group amity often goes hand in hand with out-group enmity.” And if it does, are there ways to ameliorate the situation for the benefit of society at large?
    I don’t know the answer, but I’d suggest it might be found in the intersection between the two groups, i.e., the shared space if they were some Venn diagram. For example, could community activists better help to police Black neighborhoods? Could Black families and institutions “adopt” white police officers so that both sides get to know each other? Could the definition of policing be expanded to include more than just law enforcement but community service and involvement? In other words, can we expand the common space in the Venn diagram? Just some thoughts …


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