Thursday, the #BlueLivesMatter hashtag erupted in rage after Twitter responded to the police shooting of 13-year-old Tyre King in Columbus, Ohio. King was shot by Columbus police after they attempted to stop him for questioning in an unrelated robbery mistaking his BB gun for a weapon. The person who reported the robbery was unharmed and had a mere $10, which their alleged assailant did not take.
While #TyreeKing [sic] trended within Black Lives Matter circles, #BlueLivesMatter attempted to hijack the hashtag claiming King’s death was justified. What followed was a string of racist tweets invoking criminal stereotypes of black people:
People kept pushing the robbery line as if this were justification for his death.
#BlueLivesMatter was saturated with constant shaming of Tyre King, outpacing more reasonable narratives.
Some glorified the teen’s death, thanking the Columbus Police department for killing him and further labeling him a criminal.
Much of the anger coming from #BlueLivesMatter lies in the assumption that the police have no other options when faced with the perceived threat of violence. As this Twitter user points out, white people with guns have often been disarmed by police without violence.
The most sinister aspect of this reaction against Tyre King was the speed in which participants in the hashtag stereotyped, criminalized and shamed this teenager. All defended, even celebrated, King’s murder for the alleged crime of trying to steal $10. Even if King was party to the crime, this does not justify his summary execution.
The blind rage generated by #BlueLivesMatter reveals a much deeper seated hatred of black life. To automatically assume a black teenager committed a crime and further push the narrative that this black teenager is a “thug” and “gangbanger,” is to declare that black teenager socially dead. They’re no longer seen as human, just animals to be herded, caged and shot. This is how the police and their supporters view black people. The comments thanking the police for cleaning up Columbus reflect the genocidal mentality these Blue Lives Matter supporters feel toward the black community.
The sheer amount of racist hate and blatant celebrations of violence against people of color expressed shows that #BlueLivesMatter is rooted in white supremacy. The organizations that aggregate content through this hashtag are just as culpable in generating that atmosphere. Police news sites that publish racist critiques of anti-police protestors or work as PR machines to whitewash cops’ violent behavior feed the white rage that defines their audience. These websites amplify reactionary voices that would otherwise be lost in the void of the Internet. Because of this, #BlueLivesMatter has become a safe space for hate, and that safety must be shattered.