George Floyd lived a Black life, and his life mattered.
I live a white life, and my life matters.
Neither of us chose our lives, but whether it helps us or hurts us, we’re stuck like this from the day we’re born to the day we die. The exact color of your skin is determined by a combination of your parentage and random chance, and it affects how literally every single person treats you. You can’t take your skin off, even if you’re terrified or ashamed to wear it, even if you’re sick and tired of wearing it. It’s your skin, and it’s yours for life.
Nobody has blue skin.
In the United States you have to be 18 to apply to be a police officer. In most states, you have to be older. Freddie Gray, who was arrested in 2016 for possessing a legal knife, and died in police custody, was born Black. Most police retire after less than a few decades wearing blue. Tamir Rice barely lived more than one being Black, shot at the age of 12 for playing with a toy gun in 2014.
Blue isn’t a life. It’s a career.
Nobody forces a badge and a gun into their hands — they chose to pick them up. And police have been eager to remind us of the risks they take when they make that choice. They’ve made it very clear that they know those risks. The police officer who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown six times from 150 feet away in 2014 said he feared for his life.
Black people don’t get to sign up for lives of discrimination and terror. Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in March when two plainclothes police officers entered her apartment unannounced, didn’t choose to be Black. But the police officers who shot her chose their careers. They chose to shoot her, too. Police across America also chose to shoot 336 other unarmed Black people from 2013-2019.
Why should we value the safety of officers — who knowingly put themselves at risk — equally or higher than the civilians they signed up to protect? If policing is a brave and selfless job, why are they so afraid of the people they chose to serve? If police officers are public servants, why did they kill 1,100 members of the public in 2019?
Blue lives don’t exist. If they did, they would still matter less than Black ones. And white ones. And Brown ones. And Indigenous ones. And Asian ones. And Trans ones. And Queer ones. And Neurodivergent ones. And Disabled ones.
Danger is in the job description. If you want to monopolize violence, then you should be willing to be its first victim. But most cops aren’t.
To tell you the truth, I’m not sure anyone really believes that blue lives exist.
Some people just don’t care about Black ones.