Tusinski: Blue lives never mattered — they don’t even exist

Dylan Tusinski

(Graphic designed by Dylan Tusinski. Photos courtesy of Matt Tackett, Davis Bonner, Skyler Pradhan, Connor McGrath, Anna von Pechmann, Serena Bettis and Kaitlyn Ancell | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

A spam message from one of my old friends appeared on my feed as I swiped through Instagram this summer. It was the height of the George Floyd protests, and posts calling for racial justice and mass protest lit up the internet — Instagram in particular. Yet this friend posted the opposite. He shared posts proclaiming “blue lives matter!” He adamantly defended the police and disparaged protesters marching for racial equity.

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This summer solidified my belief that “blue lives” do not matter because they do not even exist. The “movement” he was a part of exists solely to protect a profession rather than the unchangeable and very personal identity of Black Americans that Black Lives Matter seeks to protect.

Now, let me be upfront. My uncle is a police officer, and half of my family falls solidly into the blue lives matter camp. I have seen that side of the story. I have seen the mental and physical toll being a police officer takes on a person. I have seen the hardships, the trauma and the struggles my uncle has been through due to his line of work.

Despite the incendiary headline of this article, let me be clear: I understand that police officers, as people, matter.

However, at the same time, I cannot reasonably claim that my uncle or his coworkers deserve a movement akin to a major social justice movement backing them and supporting them for their line of work. Because it is just that: work.

Being a police officer is a job. A line of work. They can join at any time. They can quit at any time.”

The blue lives matter crowd propagates the idea that police officers are harshly discriminated against for doing their job. They claim, solely because of their profession, cops are ostracized, berated and mistreated. 

The blue lives matter crowd claims there is an undercurrent of anti-cop hysteria among the general populace, and this mindset manifests itself in minor, somewhat passive acts of aggression that happen nearly every day.

Now, I get it. I would also be up in arms if my McDonald’s order took a few minutes too long or if a milkshake machine wasn’t cleaned properly when I ordered a drink. And they are right. These are all clear examples of widespread, systemic cultural discrimination against cops.

To be 100% clear, that last paragraph was sarcasm.

Now, I should clarify: police officers do find challenges in their profession. They can be killed working their job. I’m not dismissing that danger nor am I ignoring it. I’m saying they chose their profession. They chose the danger that comes with it. They shouldn’t seek sympathy for a choice they made and can reverse at any given point.

“Blue lives” literally do not, and cannot, exist. Being a police officer is a job, a line of work. They can join at any time. They can quit at any time. Cops are not “blue lives” because their profession does not constitute their entire person.

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While policing is a job, being Black is an identity. It’s something you can’t change and something you can’t just choose to quit. That’s the primary difference between Black Lives Matter and blue lives matter. One seeks to protect an unchangeable identity that has historically faced discrimination; the other wants to claim discrimination against a profession.

Beyond that, the phrase “blue lives matter” is an inherent jab at the Black Lives Matter movement. The so-called movement for blue lives only exists as a counter-reaction to the spring of Black Lives Matter protests.

So, it’s a fair assumption to think that by saying “blue lives matter” you’re implying that being a “blue life” is equivalent to being Black. Which, of course, isn’t true. Black people can’t just quit being Black. Nor do they get the positional power a cop does just for being Black.

Cops get, just because of their job, tasers, knives, handcuffs, mace, pistols, batons, shotguns, squad cars, riot gear and K-9 units.  Depending on position, they also get police unions, government pensions, health care plans, college debt forgiveness and qualified immunity to effectively not be sued for most of their actions, among other benefits.

Surely with all those benefits, they’re the real victims, right?

Police choose to join the force knowing there are plenty of people who don’t like cops. On top of that, they can choose to quit at any time. If they’re upset people are protesting them and their coworkers, they can choose to hang up their badge anytime.

Dylan Tusinski can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @unwashedtiedye.