A Legal Analysis of the Statement That “Blue Lives Matter”

June 24, 2020

minute READ 

How “Black Lives Matter” differs from “Blue Lives Matter.”

To be able to intelligently talk about societal issues, it’s important to see things clearly.

When it comes to the current protests in the US, the human rights lens can offer crucial insights that are often missing in the conversation.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have a background in human rights, and us lawyers aren’t great at clearly explaining legal ideas to a lay audience.

Here’s my attempt to remedy that and to give non-lawyers a framework to think about the situation.

As I described before, the “Black Lives Matter” movement is about two main human rights:

  • the right to life, and
  • the right to equality/non-discrimination.

Let’s look at two questions that may come up:

Question 1:

Given that everyone has a right to life and that this obviously includes police officers, what’s the difference between “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter”? In other words: are both basically interchangeable from a human rights perspective?

No, they’re not.

Here’s why:

Everyone has a right to life. In that sense, the two statements are comparable.

However, “Black Lives Matter” isn’t only about the right to life, it’s also about non-discrimination.

If authorities arbitrarily kill someone, that infringes on that person’s right to life.

If authorities arbitrarily kill someone due to their race, that infringes on that person’s right to life and the right to non-discrimination.

“Black Lives Matter” is about the intersection between these two rights… about black people being killed for being black.

Question 2:

What then, of cases where police officers are specifically being targeted for being police officers — wouldn’t that make it a discrimination issue, similar to when black people are targeted for being black?

From a human rights perspective, that’s still not the same thing.  

If we look at most discrimination clauses, they generally forbid discrimination based on grounds such as

  • race,
  • sex,
  • religion,
  • national or social origin, etc.

Here’s why:

One reason for specifically mentioning these grounds is that these are things people don’t choose. We don’t choose our race, our sex, or our national origin.

We can’t change many of them, either.

That’s why it’s even more important to protect us from discrimination on these grounds than from things we have some control over. 

If the life of a police officer is threatened because they’re wearing a uniform, they can do something to change that.

If the life of a black person is threatened due to the color of their skin, there’s nothing they can do to change that.

While a police officer can find a different job, a discriminated black person can’t stop being black.

Even though all humans have a right to life, that’s why the statement “Black Lives Matter” differs from “Blue Lives Matter.”

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About the author

Bere is the founder of Leader for Good. She's a former lawyer and academic who moved from Germany to the United States where she started her own business. Today, Bere loves helping her coaching clients and students connect with their passion and purpose. You can find out more about her coaching business at www.workyoulovecoach.com.

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