How Can a Small Town Talk About Race?

Jun 19, 2018 · 123 comments
jm (Boston)
- if this bothers you BLACK LIVES MATTER - because it doesn't say this ALL LIVES MATTER - but this doesn't bother you BLUE LIVES MATTER Then BLACK was the operative word
Ob (Greenwood Lake, NY)
The village has only recently re-painted the blue line in front of Town Hall in neighboring Greenwood Lake, part of the Town of Warwick. Wish it would fade away - along with the Confederate Flag-waving racists in this village. Of course, two summers ago it was reported that our police chief and others from his force showed up at the nearby Renaissance Faire wearing circus outfits and carrying signs that read "Clown Lives Matter." They were kicked out of the faire, but should have been booted out of office.
WJKush (DeepSouth)
Dialogues take more skill than I thought; Dialogues take more agape' than debates. They are a nonviolent approach to participation in democracy. To summarize words of wisdom, clarify muddled thinking, unpack dog-whistle phrases, facilitate creative problem-solving... Honor the weight of the task whenever you attempt to have dialogues especially around race.
DesertFlowerLV (Las Vegas, NV)
I watched this video and afterwards I put my head in my hands and wept. Blue Lives Matter is a slap in the face to Black Lives Matter. That's what it's meant to be - they don't even make up their own slogan. The blue line was a stupid, stupid idea. It reminds me of the enormous cross I could see from 5 miles away when I drove through Amarillo, TX, back in the 90s. Don't know if it's still there - probably is. I defy anyone to feel any love coming off that thing - what it really is is a giant Keep Out sign. Warwick's miserable blue line is the same.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
The use of the words mimics the Black Lives Matter name and so places the statement as a contrary response to that movement. Remember when Sanders statement that all lives matter received outrage because it was perceived as trivializing the significance of Black Lives Matter? It's clearly something that reflects deep feelings. It was a product of deep and persistent resentments towards long standing racial bigotry which practices like racial profiling and frequent encounters with police due to that practice have created deep anger and mistrust. It's one thing to support police, it's another thing to juxtapose the Black Lives Matter phrase into Blue Lives Matter and so mock the concerns behind it. This response to the Black Lives Matter contributes to the perception of police having some unreasonable animosity towards African American people. Right now, there are activists looking for examples of police misconduct to use as causes to arouse popular reactions that they think will lead to less disparities related to race than there are now. They feel that they are on the side of the angels and the message is more important than the facts in any situation. No police officer who can be used to represent the evil that they seek to exorcise is not expendable. Just trying to have each incident addressed based upon facts is becoming seen as a cover up of the insidious racist agenda of police. This act just contributes to the problem.
Wendy (Chicago)
Bernie Sanders never said "all lives matter". You are misinformed. At the CNN Democratic primary debate in October 2015, he was asked directly "Do black lives matter or do all lives matter?" He did not hesitate to reply "Black lives matter!" and to follow it up with a powerful statement. It's worth a watch.
Wendy (Chicago)
Another unarmed black teenager was shot Tuesday night running away from the police after a traffic stop. The cop who shot him had been sworn in hours before, by the way. I read about unarmed black men and boys being shot while fleeing at least once a week, it seems. Many of the people you can see at the town hall meeting in the film just don't seem to get what's going on in this country - or don't want to get it.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
Black Lives Matter is the direct result of highly publicized and controversial shootings of African Americans by police which were initially reported based upon what witnesses and officials stated right after the incidents. In every case, advocates for equal treatment of African Americans seized on them to get out their message, and in doing so helped the narrative skew towards wanton murder and mayhem against black people by police and the civil authorities where the incidents occurred. Later results of investigations into the incidents that did not confirm the narrative all became further narratives into the cover ups by the forces controlling our public institutions in the service of white supremacy. Is it really a good idea to spin facts just to keep an issue alive in the mass media? It would seem that more people think that it is than think not.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
This claim of support for police is dishonest. The phrase, Blue Lives Matter, deliberately mocks, Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter, does imply that the lives of black people are somehow special and because the phrase arose from protests against police incidents with people who were black who were shot or brutally treated, that the police do not think that black people's lives matter. So Black Lives Matter targets police. It targets police as instruments of a racist system designed to oppress African Americans. Thus, Blue Lives Matter, does not refer to respect for police but disrespect for Black Lives Matter. To understand what this is about one needs to understand that it is not about real people who are police nor real people who are African Americans, it's about injustice and fears about injustice that seems to be never ending. This fear and apprehension is being lain upon incidents that seem to accord with these feelings. End the use of the Blue Lives Matter term and stop asserting that police are anything but people doing a job that can bring out the best or worst in people.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
Black Lives Matter is a protest movement and that is all it can be. Maybe it can lead to some kind of movement to eliminate racial inequities and racial stereotyping but to do that it has to embrace forgiveness to enable trust and resolution of that about which Black Lives Matter is reacting. There is no doubt that African Americans have been exploited and continuously oppressed for centuries and the legacy of all of this still affects their lives. But eliminating this is going to require a lot better effort than attributing it to a continuation of systematic racial discrimination where by African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, and White/European Americans are all slavishly imposing white supremacy when that is clearly not what is going on.
Charlie Reidy (Seattle)
Those people who don't want blue lines running down the middle of their streets should stop casting the police as enemies, as so many do. We need to recognize that cops are getting killed in this country, too, which is something that Black Lives Matter doesn't bring into any discussion about police brutality. There has to be a balance. Cops who murder should be prosecuted. Cops who save lives while endangering themselves deserve our praise and undying gratitude. If black lives matter, then by all means, blue lives also do.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
Blue Lives Matter is a phrase intended to oppose the phrase Black Lives Matter, it is not intended to assure police that they are supported. Black Lives Matter was meant to convey the meaning that the lives of African American people are not being respected like the lives of all others by police and the public institutions of this country. Police are stereotyped in this viewpoint as agents of oppression. Thus the term Blue Lives Matter is intended to express not support for police, per se, but support for police in opposition to Black Lives Matter, and thus opposition to the complaints about which that group has expressed.
Radiant1 (Seattle, WA)
As an addendum, a black man with a knife was shot and killed in Warwick on Saturday night 6/16 by a white police officer.
Charlie Reidy (Seattle)
And a grand jury will decide whether the policeman was at fault, not people who live 2500 miles away who have read a few lines of a report about the shooting on the Internet.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
That proves nothing. A knife is a deadly weapon and if the officer sincerely believed that he needed to use deadly force, he was likely justified in doing so. Presuming that good guys must always wait for the bad guys to shoot first is unrealistic.
Tom (Port Wahington)
You are correct, a grand jury operating in secret, selected by the DA, hearing only information provided by the DA's office, none of which can be made public under NY law.
Thank you for this insightful film and commentary. To an outsider, the town's choice to paint a blue line seems like a back-door way to say that black lives don't matter. We know the stated intentions of people who paint blue lines. But to those who are not white, "blue" signals white superiority. People who put up pro-blue signs on their lawns might as well be saying "blacks, browns: keep off the grass." Shameful.
"But ultimately the blue line’s presence in Warwick was about race." This line from the writer stands out to me, as encapsulating a significant portion of the current race issues we face. By the author's own admission the town of Warwick hasn't been home to issues of police brutality nor have there been racial issues in the town though the author asserts that they were "just below the surface." Although there are plenty of real instances of racism, the tendency of the outrage crowd has been to spin "racism" into anything they dislike or that inconveniences them. The author was neither the creator of the symbol nor presumably its intended audience, yet here she seems intent on reading an absolute meaning into it. While it might be fine for her to say, seeing that line evoked a feeling that I wasn't welcome because of my race or some such, why is her own opinion some decisive declaration of the meaning of that symbol? In this sense, when racism is read into any negative experience a POC may endure or any form of messaging the POC dislikes, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Corinne (St. Louis, MO)
Did you watch the entire film? The meeting at the Town Hall demonstrates clearly the racism beneath the surface -
Wendy (Chicago)
Of course it's about race. These blue lines on streets have been popping up in a number of places. They're a direct response to the BLM movement (and to the outrage so many people of all colors, including me, have expressed about police profiling, brutality towards and killing of unarmed black men and women). You didn't see them popping up before the BLM movement, did you? It also sounds as if you didn't view the video.
Corinne (St. Louis, MO)
The people who objected to the blue line weren't disrespecting the police, they were calling out the subtext - which every racist in that meeting made into out loud text. Yes, racist.
Corinne (St. Louis, MO)
By the way, I did not mean to say everyone who supported the blue line was a racist. I think some people were naive about the meaning behind it - including the mayor. If they were in that meeting, however, it would be impossible to say they were naive anymore.
Wendy (Chicago)
Corinne, I hear you, but I don't think the mayor was naive - I think he understood perfectly well, right from the start, what was going on. I think he just wanted to make sure he was re-elected.
Wendy (Chicago)
PS. Corinne - I admire your generosity of spirit in giving some people the benefit of the doubt. I live in a large, majority-black apartment complex (I'm white) near the whitest, most racist neighborhood in Chicago - Mt. Greenwood. As seems to be the case in Warwick, it's home to many police and firefighters and their families. Being familiar with the thinking of the residents there, I'd be far less likely to give the benefit of the doubt to people there who would support a blue line on a street. I would assume they were all, or nearly all, racist. There are probably exceptions. I hope you are right in your assessment of some of the people of Warwick, but I do agree that if there was any naivete concerning this issue, attending the town hall meeting certainly should have dissipated that.
C (Brooklyn)
This touches on two groups who live in fear of each other. That fear is real whether deserved or not, and can not be ignored. I support all people black, white, police and even members of our political parties. I do think when you draw a line whether blue or black you enforce separation and become an agent of divisiveness and part of the problem, not part of the solution.
hen3ry (Westchester, NY)
People who become police officers are well aware of the fact that they may be injured or killed in the line of duty. They know, and their families know too, that there are no guarantees that they will come home in one piece at the end of a shift. The adoration of first responders in America has gotten out of hand. If anyone has a responsibility to use guns carefully it is people in law enforcement. The cop on the beat, the cop responding to a domestic abuse call, a lost child call, or any other call is empowered to use force if necessary. Yet we keep on hearing about force being used gratuitously, without caution and with fatal results. The truth is that ALL lives matter, not just Blue Lives, Black Lives, or White Lives. Our pledge of allegiance has the words one nation...with liberty and justice for all in it. When we single out one set of lives over others we're betraying that pledge, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. Equality for some is not equality for all. But this is the legacy we continue to bear because of our past history with slavery. All of us have the same needs no matter what our politics, skin color, religion, gender preferences, or economic status is. We need food, shelter, human contact, respect, to be treated like human beings rather than trash. In today's America it has become too easy to treat people who do not conform like trash.
John Brown (Idaho)
hen3ry, Why your comment was not made a Times Pick is beyond me. It should be on the list, if there is one, of Best Comments of the Year. Thank You. John Brown
Wendy (Chicago)
Black Lives Matter is not "singling out one set of lives over others". They are simply pointing out that black lives matter TOO - which certainly hasn't seemed to be the case in this country.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
People risk their lives in a job where responding to apparently minor problems can be deadly. Police who have trusted people who indicate they are complying have been killed. No matter what happens during a work shift, they must face whatever comes up during the next one. They find their jobs interesting but it’s serious and they cannot know what will happen next. They must act with incomplete information or their limits as human being pretty much dictates that whatever that they then do will not be sufficient. But people who have no idea what they would do had they faced the same situation, know that any good police officer should have known everything that was determined after the fact. I abhor police brutality which is when police act with anger and vindictiveness that makes them not just subdue people but to use excessive force deliberately. I abhor police shielding bad acts by other police from accountability. I abhor police framing people for who they cannot produce good evidence to have a conviction. I abhor police abusing their authority to serve their racial biases. However, I do not think that cops should let themselves be injured or killed to avoid looking aggressive or trigger happy to people who have no idea about what they are seeing.
Al from PA (PA)
There is a national code of signage for all roads, highways, rights of way, etc. Single yellow line, double, dashed, etc. A blue line has no place on the road simply because it has nothing to do with the actual use of the road, which is to facilitate vehicular transport for all persons, of whatever race, creed or citizenship. If citizens are enamored of the police, fine, put up a monument (in the proper place), write a song, collect money, stage a protest, whatever. This use of a backhanded way of honoring that virtually coerces unanimity--everyone after all has to use the road, and in doing so in a sense recognizes the blue line, or at least tolerates it--is illegitimate.
Joshua Koff (Warwick, NY)
I live I Warwick. The 2016 election definitely was an eye-opener when it came to how certain people in my community felt about race. It was appalling to see the outrage that came about from all of this. I generally fall on the more liberal side of arguments such as this but once it came close to home it really unsettled me and it tore me apart. My father is a retired police officer and I’ve always been raised to respect police officers, but I also have a moral code that applies to our protectors and says that you respect all equally.. Almost no one says a bad thing about the Warwick Police, and when an officer does do something wrong, I hope the department does something about it. My family is close family friends with the town justice and I can assure you that when an incidents appears before him that was initiated because of racial motivations, he will and has done the right thing. Warwick isn’t a bad place, just a place where people were scared. They were so scared that we all forgot to check the law, which says that any line, whether it be blue; red, white, and blue; or anything else is illegal. The line’s gone. The debate mostly is, too. It’s a scar on our town, the controversy it caused. Hopefully things get better in the future for our little old town.
wintersea (minnesota)
Unfortunately, this kind of cultish worship of anyone in a uniform is a function of an educational system that teaches obedience to authority. At my university, which is run like a minimum security prison, students have no voice, are taught what to say and indoctrinated in what to think. Thus, they never question anything that is done to them or required of them. They willing take out loans, line up for required and meaningless classes and forcefully defend the status quo. As a result, they develop a fetish for hero worship of anyone in authority that tells them what to do.
Dan (All over)
Instead of meetings, the town should have sponsored a dance. Meetings never solve anything. They just turn into shouting matches. When people are in meetings they act "meeting-like" which is to try to convince others but not listen to others. But when you dance you have to be "dance-like" and share space, be aware of your partner, be equals, etc. I'm not kidding with this suggestion. Social media does not encourage us to dance together. It encourages us to divide into us-them camps. It encourages people to say things in anger that can't be retracted. It is a forum for fighting. Create forums where people have to cooperate----let's dance.
Andrew (Nyc)
I love this suggestion!
J (New England)
Violence follows Black Lives Matter, everywhere it goes. Either the inner city and suburban whites and blacks, etc who support it are violent or something about that rhetoric propels others to violence. How dare you declare, "(for the record, Black Lives Matter is not a hate group)?" It is a polarizing force that incites violence (if not directly supporting it.) So it's just a coincidence that police officers are attacked, shot and killed around or after Black Lives Matter protests, events and rallies? NOT! I follow news of police shootings closely and observe very few instances where I disagree with grand (or petit) juries not indicting/convicting officers in shootings, White, Black, purple or green. If Blue Man (Group) refuses to drop a gun or knife and lunges at officers, shoot her. Same for Green, Yellow, Brown and yes, Black. Criminal actions have consequences. And they should. My parents had, "the talk" with me when I was young, growing up in a White neighborhood of an integrated (~45% Black vs ~50% White vs ~5% "Other") town. It went like, 'Don't argue with police.' 'Comply with police orders, fight it out in court later.' 'Cool it.' It worked in my case; I never pulled a knife or gun on an officer. I was never arrested. I left home for an education, family and career. I lived and tell about it. Be respectful and paint any darn color line you want on my street. I respect them all.
Bayou Houma (Houma, Louisiana)
Like modern soldiers, local police undergo training not just to survive armed confrontation, but to enforce our laws. And modern training for both purposes involves desensitizing them, so they are conditioned to suppress our instinct to identify with the common humanity of potential suspects, and instead respond to people in aggressive reflexes, the learned attitudes and behavior enabling them to shoot first. They learn to overcome letting their guard down, in order to kill someone if necessary. Race becomes a problem because part of white police desensitization is to raise suspicion based on non-white appearance. The solution is more black and non-white police officers in predominantly black neighborhoods. It’s the integration effect. Working together raises the social intelligence of both white and black police, males and females, so that desensitization does not naturally express itself in racist hostility but more often in professional courtesy expected of familiar public servants. To hire more qualified black police, recruit more black veterans.
John Brown (Idaho)
BH, That same line of reasoning was taken 50 years ago. Turns out that "Black" Police Officers are as violent as "White" Officers, even with their own "race". Try being a police officer for a week and get back to us.
Bayou Houma (Houma, Louisiana)
John Brown: When is the last time you have read or seen a black parent and child have “the talk” about black police? When is the last time you have read or seen a “riot” provoked by news of a black policeman negligently shooting an unarmed black person? Black opinion polls just do not support your assertion that the race of police does not matter. It does in black communities when white police shoot black citizens.
Chuck (Santa Fe)
So, an unknown valid defaces public property by painting a line in the middle of a public road, and the response is to make the blue line official by having the city repaint it. I wonder what would have happened if the line had been black? If you want an encapsulation of the closet racism that still exists in America, this is it.
Oliver (Planet Earth)
Wow. Everyday we fall backwards as a nation. Dangerous times are ahead.
Tournachonadar (Illiana)
I work as a Federal law enforcement officer and have innumerable dealings with state, county and local police as part of my job. My agency also provides very large--tens of millions in some cases--shares of the revenue we seize from narcotics traffickers and the like, so we are appreciated for that. My own boss is a person of color--black, white and Korean. And we of course have numerous black employees in our office. But none of them can openly support Black Lives Matter. Because BLM is officially classified by the FBI as a domestic terrorist group. Any one of my coworkers, had he or she joined or even given financial support to BLM, would be fired with cause. So please don't go on the record as saying they're OK, when they advocate militant and divisive racial policies that are so sadly delusional because they'll never work.
Michael (Williamsburg)
How much money have you seized from the drug companies that allow opiods to be diverted and sent into our communities so people can become addicted and die. None. Remember, policing is not a dangerous occupation per the Bureau of Labor Statistics and its data on occupational deaths. It is more dangerous to be a garbage collector but no police officer wears a "garbage collector lives matter" Vietnam Vet
Tournachonadar (Illiana)
Your efforts to denigrate my comment are shabby and succeed only in making you look ignorant, which I suspect you are not. Civil and criminal forfeiture play a major role in the revenue of my department of the Federal government. And the money that we seize and share with the local and state entities who helped us is massive. If you don't like the opioid situation, and who does, then may I suggest taking part in the legislative process by contacting your lawmakers?
Heik (Boston)
I can’t speak to the rest of the statements in this comment, but the one which says that BLM has been designated a domestic terrorist organization by the FBI is demonstrably false. If it were, its leaders would be arrested, its website shut down, and its funds seized. The FBI has indicated that they consider ‘Black Identity Extremists’ to be a potential threat against law enforcement. A federal law enforcement professional would probably know the difference.
usedmg (New York)
Considering moving to Warwick? Meet your neighbors
John Brown (Idaho)
Hard to tell if the "Blue Line" article and film documents more of a stir in the lives of Warwick or in the lives of the NY TImes commentators. Didn't Jonathan Swift and/or Lewis Carroll write about how small things can divide people in ways unimagined ?
Eric (EU)
Great doc. Look forward to watching more! The gentleman with the sideburns summed up the problem both times he made an appearance: First, his premise began: "Lets talk truth: police are being assassinated at unprecedented rates". This is not a truth, or a fact. Being killed in the line of duty isn't an assassination". Maybe that's semantics, but I think words matter. (And anyway, by that logic, it's not BLM, but communities saturated with GUNS that is the obvious problem) -He said outright that this was - in part - about denouncing Black Lives Matter. If this is correct, it shows it wasn't an innocent tip of the hat to local law enforcement: it was a loaded provocation. Public spaces have no business becoming politicized. Period. -Finally, that he was shaking his head when the mayor called on everyone to compromise, shows this mentality is 100% a zero sums game for them. How do you reason with that? -Secondly, h
Do any of the negative commentators about police have any idea how difficult their job is?
Michael (Williamsburg)
It isn't a difficult job. I met Frank Serpico and he talked about the free lunches police got every day! Remember it is more dangerous to be a garbage collector than a police officer Look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Death DAta
Emma (Edmonton)
The point is, it’s a job. Appreciation is shown to the police by way of salaries and pensions. If someone feels it’s too dangerous to be a policeman officer, they can quit, take off the uniform, retire. There is no “Blue Life.” Being a policeman officer is not an indelible and irreversible state.
John J. (Orlean, Virginia)
"Blue lines have continued popping up in other towns at the same time that (unsurprisingly) more black men and women continue to be killed, harmed, and profiled by police around the country". 258 black men were killed by police in 2016. 223 were killed in 2017. (457 white men were killed that year by the way.) Through February of this year 23 black men have been killed - a substantial decrease. Ms. Knowles statement is demonstrably false. "Unsurprisingly", facts don't seem to matter to Ms. Knowles if they conflict with her narrative of evil law enforcement officers preying on innocent black men.
pcadry (mich.)
you need to research the term "per capita"
Charles Becker (Sonoma State University)
"Serving" is a funny word. If you've served, it means lot to you. If you haven't served it sound ridiculous, inconsequential, absurd … pffft. I've never been a police officer, but I spent many duty days standing Shore Patrol in ports around the Pacific. That gave me just the slightest taste of what it means when society calls on you (in the case of Shore Patrol, obliges you) to go out and keep innocent people safe from those who intend harm to others. So from that, I wondered what this means to the tens of thousands of African-American police officers: "Black officers make up just 12% of all local police officers, the survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed. The overall U.S. black population is 13.2%, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau." (wsj). When I was going to sea I had many African-American shipmates and we stood Shore Patrol together, and we were in damage control parties together, and we went to general quarters stations together, and I don't think any of us thought of anything except our mutual responsibilities to each other and to our ship, just being shipmates. But we had that, we were shipmates together. Amnesia is the only thing that lets us human beings move forward in life.
OneView (Boston)
I haven't yet found anyone who would ever claim that police lives don't matter. When a policeman dies in the line of duty there are endless stories of the selfless commitment of that officer. When a black man is shot in the back by an officer, the victim is blamed for his "aggressive behavior" (walking while black?). No, black lives DON'T matter to many people (especially many police officers). This sick equivalence blue lives matter folks make between these two situations is sad and revolting. The deployment of lethal force by a police officer is a extra-judicial killing; a death squad, if you want. Prior to deploying lethal force, all other measures (including just waiting) need to be exhausted. A badge should never be a justification for a murder.
jkw (nyc)
Police kill around 1000 people e ach year in this country. No where near that man y police are killed. The police are not at risk.
J (New England)
There's 300,000,000+ people in the US and less than 800,000 police officers (with 'general arrest powers') In 2015 and 2016 the average number of people who died at the hands of police is 1,120 and police officers killed was 160 same period/averaged. Now, does it matter to you that 50% of the civilians were White? (26% were Black, 17% Hispanic.) 12% of police are Black, btw. So what? Overwhelmingly the dead civilians committed crimes; not so for the police officers who were killed. Police officers are killed simply because they are wearing badges. They put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve. Without them, ... Our streets would be ruled by criminals. Now, what point were you trying to make?
Tom (Port Wahington)
Your "officers killed" of 160 is misleading as it includes accidents, which kill the majority of police officers. In recent years, around 50-60 police officers are murdered. It is the safest time in US history to be a law enforcement officer, but it remains an extremely dangerous time to be an unarmed person of color in a confrontation with a police officer.
Morgan K (Atlanta)
They put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve and collect a paycheck with benefits. I will not grant sainthood to anyone simply for the career they pursue. There are police officers who go above and beyond the definition of their job in the best possible ways. They play basketball with kids in the neighborhood, they help victims of domestic violence get services, they don't lie under oath. They stand up to the testosterone fueled environment that comes with the badge. Then there are officers who at best, just skate by to get the pension. They can't be bothered to take a report for a car break-in. They never volunteer for anything in the neighborhood. They park their unit and hang out on Facebook. And then there are the vast majority of police - doing the job they are paid to do and trying to make a difference. Just like the rest of us.
Maggie (NC)
Protests like the blue line help just accentuate the polarization. Whathas changed my mind to someone who now believes police departments across the country are riddled with emboldened racists, is the steadfast refusal of professional police organizations from the FOP on up, to publicly acknowledge the problem and establish polices to better screen and root out racists. Former leader of white supremecist organizations, Chris Piccolini who now does interventionist work, said on 60 Minutes recently that these hate organizations had made it their mission to get their members on police forces across the country. When official police policy allow rank and file officers to shoot essentially anyone who makes them feel threatened it’s very difficult for juries to convict even the most egregiously unjustified shootings. So the acrimony and divisions grow. We have police across the country who are trained to believe they are soldiers in some kind of urban warfare and citizens are their enemy. Now armed with deacessioned military weaponry, they have seem to have lost the the notion that they are public servants protecting the public welfare. We need the leadership of police forces and organizations to stop acting like little cry babies telling us how afraid they are all the time, reform their procedures, training and actively engage in community relations and it il make their lives safer and afford them the respect in the broader community that they should deserve.
Sam McCool (Sandy Valley NV)
What’s troubling is that some privileged whites fail to understand that “all lives matter” is perceived by oppressed minorities, and those who empathize with their plight (e.i., arbitrary justice of rogue police and lynch mobs), as hateful and racist, and worse a blind denial of America’s history of anti-minority violence.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
Black Lives Matter very specifically refers to an assertion that police and the authorities that direct them consider the lives of African Americans unimportant, so they harm them with indifference. Saying that, 'all lives matter', does not convey that meaning.
Morgan K (Atlanta)
Very very similar to #notallmen, by the way.
Unconvinced (StateOfDenial)
Except for the criminal class, most Americans are authority worshipers. Even aside from the racial complication, it's doubtful that will ever change.
true patriot (earth)
police lives are already privileged -- they can kill black and brown people with impunity. it is only a matter of time before they can kill anyone with impunity unless they are stopped. justice for some is justice for none.
amskej (Northern Europe)
I can imagine that Blue Lives Matter would receive more diverse support if those great cops, who put their lives on the line everyday, would break the silence and do something about flushing out the bad, racist cops.
Billy from Brooklyn (Hudson Valley, NY)
I live in a town only a few miles from Warwick, and while we do not have anything as divisive as a blue or black line, the same views exist. A predominately white town feels compelled to continuously honor the police department, over and above the norm. It is a clear statement that the town will support any officer, despite any circumstances in a questionable shooting of an unarmed black. I'm afraid that this country continues to have a very deep race issue. We have become more adept at hiding it---lynching is no longer common--but the feelings that blacks are inherently dangerous, and no shooting unjustified, is deep rooted.
Mon Ray (Skepticrat)
Black Lives Matters and its supporters--and many in the media--have gone to great lengths to try to demonize the police in this country. I believe the appearance of blue lines was in response to this attempted demonization of all police based on the bad performance of a small minority of policemen/women. Of course there is a need to improve policing policy and tactics, and not just vis a vis blacks. However, it is difficult to gain support for such improvements in a context in which some groups unfairly try to characterize all police as bad.
Tom (Port Wahington)
It's a good thing BLM has gone to such lengths, as the number of unarmed people murdered by police has declined in the past 2 years. Keeping them accountable was the point and needs to continue.
Peter B (Calgary, Alberta)
Police are public servants. Their job is to protect people from criminal behavior. They deserve our respect just as people who work for the fire department, school board, and transportation department deserve respect. That does not mean they are perfect they are humans just like you and me.
Joe Parrott (Syracuse, NY)
Black Lives Matter is not a hate group. It is the reaction to unjustified shootings of innocent Black Americans. Philandro Castile was stopped 49 times while driving in his neighborhood before being shot the last stop. 49 times! I am a white man who has been driving for over 40 years. I have been stopped apprx. 10 times. Tamir Rice was a 12 year old boy with a toy gun playing in a playground. He was shot dead within seconds of the arrival of police called to investigate. The majority of police are good people doing their job. Some police officers should not be wearing the uniform. When mistakes are made, there needs to be justice for the victims. It is not right to ask people to give all police a blanket absolution. Sometimes police need to resign when they have reached the point of fear for their lives outweighing calm judgement. When a rookie makes a bad mistake, as in the case of Tamir Rice, firing and prosecution are in order. They probably should not have made it through the training process successfully. Black Lives Matter is not calling for the resignation or prosecution of all white police officers in our country. They are calling for justice. Justice that we all hope to experience in our own lives.
Bill Michtom (Beautiful historic Portland)
CNN "The police chief in Mesa, Arizona, says he was 'disappointed' by a video that shows officers punching and kneeing an unarmed man. "A police sergeant and three officers have been placed on administrative leave after the May 23 incident at an apartment complex." Blue lives matter MORE than non-blue lives. Administrative leave?! If any of us had done that, we'd be in jail facing felony charges. That blue line is--or should be--an insult to anyone who is not a cop.
John (KY)
Chauvinism is everywhere. People get very uncomfortable when their worldviews are challenged. Confirmation bias is one symptom of this. I've personally seen it right here in the Times' comment section. How do we get better about it? Honesty, rigor, and humility are looking promising so far.
Jason (Bayside)
interesting and important video. But the creator falls into the trap that many in the BLM movement have. That is one of misinformation and falsehoods. This is why we see is strong counter-reaction in communities throughout the U.S. BLM is driven by emotion, and is the manifestation of frustration with what many see as institutional problems in the U.S. Here's the counter, and more empirical, narrative: Proative policing has benefitted society over the past 50 years (National Academy of Sciences, 2017). Support for the police is higher than it has been since the early 1960s (Gallop, 2016). Police use deadly force against whites more than any other racial group (Wahington Post, 2017/2018). Police shoot significantly fewer people today than they did in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s (NYC, UOF Reports, 2014). Blacks represent approx 13% of the U.S. population, but more than 50% of those arrested for Murder, or Robbery (UCR, 2016). Police interactions with people who are emotionaly disturbed, on drugs/alcohol, or wanted for a violent crime, are more likely to necesitate police use of force (Washington Post, 2017, 2018). This is objective. Many might not like it, but it doesn't mean the few should be able to peddle false narratives and misinformation without accountability.
RFC (Providence, RI)
Statistics are a good thing, Jason, but in the interest of objectivity, they need to be carefully and precisely used. For example, it is true, as you note, that while the majority of civilians killed by police are white (52% according to the 2012 UCR), whites make-up 63% of the population. At the same time, 31% of civilians killed by police are black, and blacks make-up (as you also note) 13% of the population. It is this discrepancy, among others, that provokes contemplation, that suggests we do have a race problem with law enforcement in this country. This, too, is objective; it is no false narrative.
Cathy (Hopewell junction ny)
The line through Warwick is paint. That's all. The meaning of the line is different for everyone interviewed, which makes the line essentially meaningless, even as people fight for how they see it to be meaningful. With the exception of the tall guy who spouts a slurry of propaganda pulled directly out of the hateosphere of right wing radio, everyone else in that room would agree to both statements: that police officers should not be in danger at every traffic stop, and that no black man should be facing death at a traffic stop. They agree. But instead of agreeing to the common human ground, they have taken sides, assuming the others are wrong, and that the blue line matters somehow. They have chosen to support a symbol that doesn't even express a single idea, over supporting actual people. And they have chosen to believe in the zero-sum false dichotomy that would state that supporting Black Lives Matter means not supporting good police, and vice versa. This is how we got to Trump - by not thinking and not compromising. We don't have to agree with everything the other person thinks - all we really have to agree to is the idea that the blue line is just paint, and no more.
Jeremy (TN)
Did that one resident actually try to justify the lines existence with a black-on-black crime statistic?
KatyBee (NYC)
Black lives matter - get your own slogan.
Robert (St Louis)
The implied assumption of Knowles' writing is that a blue line is racist and if you support a blue line, you are a racist. Perhaps the NYT should include a counterpoint opinion stating those who support BLM are racist.
Andrew (Nyc)
If you watch the video there is nothing implied about the racism because it is on full display and full volume at the town meeting.
Michael (Williamsburg)
We must remember that the police choose to become police officers. They are richly rewarded with salaries that are the product of union representation. They can retire at the end of 20 years and receive their pensions. They receive federal death benefits if they are killed in the line of duty. Let us note that per the Bureau of Labor Statistics policing is not a dangerous profession. There are other far more dangerous professions. Police are killed in execution style murders. Citizens are also killed. The police do nothing about the hundreds of millions of guns in this country. Convenience store clerks are killed at far higher rates than the police while doing their jobs so we can have a slurpee. Their jobs periodically place them in danger. Teachers are assaulted and murdered in school shootings and by irate students and parents. Yet the republicans consider most teachers to be scum and work to destroy their unions and benefits. Some police are heroic. Some citizens are heroic. Some police murder and lie and assault honest citizens resulting in unlawful deaths and extrajudicial executions. Other police lie to protect police criminals as part of ‘the blue code”. The police do their jobs. They are not our finest. They are citizens who are no better or worse than other law abiding citizens. I have been a military police officer and served in Vietnam, Bosnia and Haiti.
Radiant1 (Seattle, WA)
Excellent video and commentary. I grew up in Middletown and just returned from spending last week in Warwick, visiting an old childhood friend. Warwick is very gentrified now and many NYC folks have taken residence. There are lots of civil servants, particularly firemen and policemen, who prefer the lower costs of Orange county to the expenses of living in NYC. It's an easy commute to the city. Warwick is largely white, with few minorities. The problem with a blue line is it becomes an iconic symbol of unfettered police support, regardless of the current issues surrounding Black Lives Matter. A blue line will always stir the pot until we deal with fixing the incipient racism that still exists in this country. Our current president aggravates the problem and will not likely be any part of a solution.
Jessica (Troy)
This is a powerful video. Well done, Ms. Knowles.
Jason Shapiro (Santa Fe , NM)
"As someone who had grown up and gone to school there, I knew that issues around race were always quietly just below the surface — and the blue line was finally pushing them above ground." That is your critical line Ms. Knowles because it encapsulates both the very small and unique situation of Warwick as well as the huge and monumental situation of America's entire history. There are many things that have been kept just "below the surface" that the presidencies of both Obama and Trump have pushed above ground - mostly in a bad way. The blue lines may fade, like sepia photographs from the Civil War, but resentments do not fade so easily and many chips get carried on many shoulders for a long, long time.
ShenBowen (New York)
Thank you Ms. Knowles! Excellent documentary. I've been to Warwick, NY and it was so interesting to see this town as a microcosmic representation of the divide in our country. Certainly the Times did not understand this divide when it predicted a victory for Hillary with 99% certainty just before the election. It is important that people understand what people think on both sides of the divide.
Andy (CT )
Ms. Knowles, thank you for making this film. It's a great piece of cinema, great cinematography and editing. You presented the divergent points of view. You captured the divide, the fear, the ignorance, the advocacy of both groups and did so in a non-biased way. Since this was about your hometown, I can't imagine how you felt about the anger, fear, and ignorance about black lives matter. I fear the polarization of the community as depicted in the film is just a microcosm of our nation. The big takeaway is that we need to stop listening to talk radio and Fox News, and listen more carefully to each other. Grateful that you made. You are an incredibly talented filmmaker.
Miss Ley (New York)
Our small town is a law-abiding one where the police remain alert and vigilant. If you are in the driver's seat and two pedestrians stop and wave you forward, you will be fined by our finest. If you are sitting in your car with the engine running, please buckle your seat belt, or the police will approach you. If you are leaving a restaurant, you are to remember that the police may feel it their duty to stop you in the road and ask if you have been drinking. We are not in need of a Blue Line, because drivers mainly white, some tourists, are wary of driving through the town for fear of being stopped by our law enforcers. We have a young man born in our town; a fire fighter, a guardian of children at school, a landscaper and ground keeper, and he is much in demand, and will never deny calls for help in our community. He is an African-American and is much treasured.
ANDY (Philadelphia)
What a patronizing comment. Tokenism at its finest.
Kimberly Brook (NJ)
Indeed, scary.
Miss Ley (New York)
Alas, this is where we are at in America these days. When the American author, Shirley Jackson, wrote a short story 'The Lottery' for the New Yorker Magazine in 1948, she received a lot of death threats. She addresses the narrow-minded and cruelty in small town communities.
Andrew N (Vermont)
I appreciate the service police provide to our communities and co opting the Black Lives Matter movements language is insulting. Unless I've missed something in our history, recent or past, there is nothing even remotely similar between the experience of police and the experience of black people in the US. There are innumerable ways to honor the police; don't do it by comparing their experience to that of a race of people that were enslaved and oppressed for hundreds of years and then treated as second class citizens when they were "freed."
me (US)
I value people who would put their own life on the line to protect me, even though they don't know me, and WAY ahead of people who would not do that, or who insult those people. For that reason, I am VERY pro cop. And more and more anti liberal elitists.
Matt (VT)
Practically speaking, Blue Lives Matter is just a carefully-tendered phrase used to dismiss Black Lives Matter. If you compare "blue lives" and "black lives," only one cohort has been systematically profiled, needlessly brutalized, and unjustly incarcerated over recent decades and previous centuries. Systemic racism and the identity significance of one's job are not at all comparable.
me (US)
People who commit crimes and harm others are incarcerated and SHOULD BE, to protect law abiding citizens. Apparently you have NO sympathy at all for crime VICTIMS.
J c (Ma)
The difference between the groups is even more profound: one group is self-selecting, the other is born to thier group. One group can stop at any time being part of their group, the other is visibly marked at all times and forever as a member of their group. We hudge people by the choices they make because it is immoral to do otherwise. Being police is a choice. If you don’t like it, leave it.
J c (Ma)
@me I have great sympathy of crime victims. That's why I think that criminal police should be brought to justice. No one should be above the law. Unfortunately, the police profession is very very attractive to the exact kind of people you do not want holding that power. We can do better screening, training, and holding our police accountable. *While* we continue to lock up non-police criminals.
Terry McKenna (Dover, N.J.)
I live near Morris Plains NJ and from 1989-1998 my son and I would travel to the town weekly for boy-scout meetings. My son is now an adult leader at the troop. A blue line was painted on roads in town as a responser to Black Lives Matter. With the local newspaper being nearly defunct (the Daily Record) and with negligible media coverage, it is hard to gauge the impact but the reason it went up was clear. And shameful. Morris Plains remains a wonderful place to live, great for kids, peaceful, and on the train line in NYC. But the line itself showed something that lurked under the surface.
Mary Ann Balko-Koch (Salzburg, Austria)
Thank you for making the film. It was very well done.
Louis (St Louis)
One would think that it should be simple: Everyone's life matters, whether they be police officers or the people they are charged with serving and protecting. Unfortunately some (many? probably not) police officers use unjustified, sometimes fatal, violence, and some (many? probably not) of the people police officers deal with use violence against them. There are plenty of reasons why each side (and yes, there are definitely "sides" on this) acts as they do, and only through reasoned efforts to improve relations can things possibly get better. Not surprisingly, having a race-baiting president in the White House is not part of the solution.
Des Johnson (Forest Hills NY)
"If you see something, say something...?" For every officer who uses excess violence there are at least two others who saw that happen, but they said nothing, or worse, they backed up the violent act and excused it.
Michael Schmidt (Osceola, WI)
I agree that the current president of the United States seems to strongly favor the race-bating, inappropriate killing of non-white Americans and inappropriate failure to welcome people who need a better place to live than their home countries that have unfortunately likely been supported by the US. I also feel that one of the problems that occur way too frequently is related to inappropriate weapons being carried and displayed by and excess number of police officers. Many of these officers in their response to their situation inappropriately display their weapons, then use their weapons to distroy the life of someone in emotional distress, someone who has mental health problems, or someone who knows the are at risk of death in a situation where they have been inappropriately stopped.
Hussein Abshir College Student (Seattle)
Great video, really shows how this issue is affecting us everywhere! From huge metropolitan's to small suburbia. The town hall segment was the most interesting to me, as I really believe people need to express their voice and be heard to address their grievances, if we forcefully ignore one segment of the population that leads to resentment which over time will lead to catastrophic events happening due to built up emotion. We all are a part of this country and deserve to be heard! SO SPEAK UP! However, when we speak we need to remain civil and those who do not want to engage in civil discussion need to be asked to leave until they want to speak civily. I want to make this clear; I am not taking sides in opinions on who is right and who is wrong, people have the right and should be encouraged to speak on how they feel, in a civil manner. The civility in this town hall meeting was broken and the discussion completely derailed when this organizer of the blue line called black men who have been killed by the police ''thugs'' and others including ''vicious thugs'' the pure hatred and racism this man presented could be felt over 2,000 miles away in my house in Seattle, WA. Can someone explain to me how in any fashion that man or anyone who uses derogatory insults towards minorities, or the men who say women are to emotional to make decisions and anybody who makes derogatory comments like this can engage in civil discussion that leads to action or are we just moving in circles?
Theresa (San Diego)
When an incident (officer involved shooting) happens and it happens to involve a black man, there is a media circus (most especially if it is a white officer with a black suspect). The media (especially MSNBC) interviews BLM and advocates, who conflate stories of black people shot by civilians, with stories of ARMED suspects shot by officers, with stories of UNARMED suspects. The stories are conflated to strengthen their arguments. But those situations involve very different situations and accountability. Rarely is there in any of these panel discussions anyone advocating for the police. This is frustrating to the families of police officers who know what they face every day: assault, shootings, and encounters that turn deadly without warning. It is the families of the officers who are frustrated and want to speak up with the Blue Lives Matter symbol. An officer is shot almost every week in this country. Violent confrontations are common. The media does not cover what police officers face on a daily basis. They focus on a couple minutes of smart phone footage that doesn’t take into account any of the context of the shooting. They interview the mothers of shooting victims but not the mothers of slain officers. The families of officers are frustrated that there is no one representing them in the panel discussions. That is why they sport the Blue Lives Matter symbols - to speak up for the officers who cannot speak out themselves.
Tom (Oxford)
When the population - no matter the ethnicity - is armed to the teeth we will only have police having trigger fingers and a poor, underclass feeling under assault. Without guns being so prevalent, police wouldn't be so hasty in pulling and using them. Because guns are present, unconscious issues of race rapidly come to the surface in a sort of preordained judgment. Prejudices become quick assessments about guilt or innocence. Policing, race, poverty and class divisions is an ugly mix at any time. Even without guns, policing requires sensitivity. Throw guns into the mix and those sensitive issues become violent encounters. How could it be otherwise? When everybody is armed - whether white or black, police or civilian - latent prejudices become actualized in body counts.
Willow (Memphis)
Logging and commercial fishing are statistically much more dangerous than policing. Just an interesting tidbit of fact for you to digest while you figure out how to focus your concerns and support to the most dangerous professions. (Lines save Lives! On ships! And whatever other clever slogans you come up with!)
Charlierf (New York, NY)
You do not know if the person is unarmed until either later, or too late. Cops in a country awash with guns, who know all too well that many cops are killed by bad guys with guns, just might be a mite apprehensive.
KFC (Cutchogue, NY)
We saw a blue line pop up in eastern Long Island in Peconic, NY, a year or two ago. It is also a very small, conservative and mostly white community. I was a little shocked to see it frankly because to me, it was more provocative than anything as we saw police brutality in the news almost daily and no shortage of local support for our police force. Soon after, Blue Lives Matter signs started popping up in yards around the community. Why? I have no idea. Little houses that I used to think were pretty and well-kept were now symbols of darkness and fear to me. My family thought the message was pretty clear: blue lives matter more than black lives, excessive force was warranted. After being content there for years, we suddenly felt isolated and felt like the minor differences between us and our neighbors were now really big. After all this time has passed, I feel like that simple act of painting that stupid line was so unnecessary and did far more harm than good.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
How do you think the police and white Americans felt, being blamed for every incident of police brutality? or being told their lives matter less than black lives? or that they are forbidden to speak out in their own defense?
ZenShkspr (Midwesterner)
The film and your comment are so important. As one interviewee said, it feels like many people are being willfully ignorant of the hurtful message they're sending to their neighbors.
Artur (Toronto)
Amazing how we can draw meanings about anything, and then divisions are born and people start fighting. Even over a silly stretch of blue paint on the street. A lot of hysteria going on in America.
Jerome (Florida)
One approach could be to ask the local police force to vote whether to keep the blue line. (If the force voted in favor of keeping the line, even though it is apparent the issue is causing trauma and potential safety risks in this small town, the town should remove the blue line. If the police, out concern for the well being of the town, voted in favor of removing it, the town should keep the blue line because the police force would have truly earned the honor.)
Charles Becker (Sonoma State University)
Too clever by half.
JWBear (Boston)
Well done film for sure. If anything I think all can agree that increased dialogue via myriad points of view could lead to more understanding. And if not at least we tried.
Mat (Kerberos)
A fascinating film! You have to wonder whether the Mayor’s office really weighed the issue properly before deciding to put the initial line there. Though I must confess to being somewhat infuriated by some of the individuals and their statements shown on the film, and susceptible to some of the same anger, passion and frustration displayed by those on both sides of the line.
Tom Wild (Rochester, NY)
I drove into a small town in west-central New York a few weeks ago and encountered several large flags lining the bridge guardrails on the entrance to the village. I was saddened, but not surprised, that the flags of the US alternated with blue lives matter flags. We have a long way to go.
Olivia (NYC)
Seriously, you don’t think the lives of cops matter?
John (KY)
I'm saddened that the two concerns are viewed as being in opposition. Cops do a hard job and deserve our thanks. Black citizens shouldn't have to face the real well-documented peril from cops that they do. It's messed up. We need to put aside feeling like it's a threat to our particular group or sense of self-worth, and fix it.
Tom (Newark)
Symbols can mean different things to different people. Warwick is a sleepy little suburb and the people who did this probably didn't think anything of it. The Warwick cops are nice guys and do a great job. Most cops are just regular people trying to work a job that is necessary for the safety of a community and most of them really do care about what they do. The problem with symbols is that they can be hijacked. A lot of people only started caring about this when there were instances of a white police officer shooting a black person. The people who support the blue line because they support police officers preventing crimes and helping keep their communities safe are much different than the people who only give a lot of thought to the police when they are in the news for a violent encounter.
WhatMacGuffin (Mobile, AL )
Why do the people who support police for doing their jobs apparently also overlook their violations of the 4th and 5th Amendments, or support them even when they endanger innocent people and the communities they are supposed to protect? This is tribalism: thin blue line people don't care what the police do wrong, or whether the good cops are complicit in it, because this threatens their simplistic world view. It's beyond me. I don't want to live in a police state. By the way, I'm white.
Lisa (NYC)
Indeed. I think what was problematic about the blue line being drawn was that... I suspect it was drawn only AFTER the Black Live Matter movement came onto the scene. In other words, if the blue line was truly ONLY about showing thanks and support for cops in general, and the difficult, dangerous work they do, then the line could have been drawn anytime... i.e., a long time ago. But if, as I suspect, the line was only drawn after BLM came about, that seems to strongly suggest that the blue line was a response more or less against the BLM movement. Like it or not, when one signs up to be a cop, one must understand what is being asked and expected of them. Cops are here to SERVE us. Not the other way around. Our taxes pay their salaries, so they essentially REPORT to us. Not the other way around. Police have lost much of our respect, because as a whole, they demonstrated they no longer deserve it. Now, the lowest denominator of person can make it into the police academy. Many of our cops have zero emotional intelligence, no sense of how to Diffuse situations. It's all about escalation, demanding 'respect', showing us who's 'boss', covering for each other, lying on the stand, etc. As in so many other areas within the US, our method of 'policing' is more like that of a corrupt third-world country.
Theresa (San Diego)
Maybe it is because those people know what the cops face every day. And that encounters turn deadly without any warning whatsoever. And that in the crime-ridden areas where drugs and guns are commonplace and the confusion and adrenaline of a chase, mistakes are made. But we don’t try surgeons for murder when they make a mistake. People who know cops personally know what they go through and have sympathy for when they make a mistake and mobs come after them. It is genuinely HARD to be a cop in a country with more guns than people.
NSH (Chester)
As someone from the area, I remember the blue line popping up and going, what? It was in my mind entirely inappropriate, I agree Ms. Knowles.Why the sudden support? If its not political, why not a line for firefighters and nurses who as you know significant number of our populace? Clearly it was politics and ugly politics at that. Love to see your film.
Richard Pastore (Stratford, CT)
How about a nice green line for public school teachers who are constantly maligned despite giving freely of themselves and their meager sustenance to support every child in America? It can represent the money we spend on our students every year.
Neil F (NYC)
The police have, rightly or wrongly, been vilified in recent years, hence the blue line.
See also