Jeneé Osterheldt

Black Lives Matter is not a hate group

I was drinking a cookie butter milkshake when I saw the text flash on my phone: “You see these cops being murdered?”

I couldn’t take another sip. Nausea came in waves. My mama died just a few weeks ago, and I just wanted to mourn her in peace this summer. But America couldn’t care less about my mom.

Life goes on. And America is a cannibal that eats her own and blames the murder on the bones.

Since the Fourth of July, our country has been exploding with blood and injustice.

On Tuesday, it was Alton Sterling, shot in the chest and back while two Louisiana officers held him to the ground.

On Wednesday, Philando Castile was pulled over for a broken taillight, reached for his ID and was gunned down by a Minnesota officer. His girlfriend live-streamed the tragedy.

Such videos are consumed like lynch porn — another way to rationalize our deaths. They rarely lead to a conviction.

So Thursday night, while sitting at Steak ’n Shake, a friend and I discussed unplugging from social media and this steady diet of loss we’ve been on since Trayvon Martin was killed four years ago. Or was it six years ago, on July 8, 2010, when we realized Oscar Grant’s killer would be found guilty only of involuntary manslaughter? It’s hard to keep up with the latest victim of white fear, a fear that continually leads to black bodies in caskets. We wanted a break.

And then I got that message. During a peaceful protest in Dallas, snipers opened fire on police. And I haven’t really shut my eyes since.

It was a domestic terrorist attack. Five police officers were killed. Several were severely injured. The slain suspect, 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson, said he wanted to kill white people, specifically white officers. Disgusting.

There is no justification for what happened in Dallas. No one deserves to be executed. Those officers were doing their jobs. They should have gone home to their families, not hospitals and morgues. There will never be an excuse for the bloodshed on Thursday.

But before we even knew the identity of the suspect, a narrative was forming. A young black man’s image was erroneously spread as a suspect. Media outlets started to frame it as a Black Lives Matter activist shooting at an anti-police protest. But this was a peaceful anti-brutality protest.

I guess it’s easier to believe that the Black Lives Matter movement spawned murderers than to believe the truth about America: A violent, unjust system gave birth to a violent, unjust people.

Immediately, threats against President Barack Obama and black people spread across the web. An Overland Park officer appears to have threatened a little black girl. Former congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois chimed in with hate. He said “Real America” is coming for us. I guess 400 years of slavery and a continuous struggle for our rights make us fake Americans.

Let’s be very clear: Standing against police brutality is not standing against police. Black Lives Matter is not a battle cry against everyone else. It is not a cop-killing mission — anyone who pushes that agenda only undermines the movement. It is not an anti-white cause. Johnson was an extremist. Just as not all Muslims are terrorists, not all people seeking equality for black lives are heinous snipers.

I am heartbroken over what happened in Dallas. Cops put their lives on the line every day — an officer was shot in the neck Friday in Ballwin, a St. Louis suburb. Cops shouldn’t be hunted. But I also want people to remember that this goes both ways. My godbrother is a Washington, D.C., police officer. I worry about him when he’s in his uniform. But I worry about him as a young black man too. Out of uniform, he’s been profiled by police. That’s the thing: You can take off a badge. You can never take off your blackness.

Cry for the cops in Dallas. Pray for all police. Stand with them. We all should. But we should care about Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the ever-growing list of police brutality hashtag memorials too. You cannot care about one and not the other. “Real America” is supposed to offer justice for all.

As President Obama said: “If communities are mistrustful of the police, that makes those law enforcement officers who are doing a great job and are doing the right thing, it makes their lives harder. So when people say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter; it just means all lives matter. But right now the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives. This is recognizing that there is a particular burden that is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens. And we should care about that. We can’t dismiss it.”

We know there are many good cops. We also know that white people, Latinos, the mentally ill and more are also killed by cops. Dylan Noble, a white 19-year-old, was unarmed and killed by Fresno, Calif., officers last month. His family deserves justice. But understand that black people are killed by cops 2.5 times as often as white people. Black students are suspended three times as often as white students. Even the preschoolers. Systemic bias and racism are alive. It’s time we stop hiding under anger and start dealing with the truth inflicting our pain. America, show us you have a soul and come together.

I stand up for black lives and I mourn for the murdered cops. That’s the thing about a heart when you have one. It multitasks.

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