Respect for Authority =/= Respect for Human Life

Nicole Hallberg
4 min readDec 10, 2015


from the blog pale green things

This has finally articulated exactly how I feel about the #BlackLivesMatter vs. the AllLivesMatter vs. the BlueLivesMatter movements. If a black girl doesn’t treat a cop like an authority figure by refusing to put away a cell phone when told, and the cop responds by not treating the girl like a person and violently flipping her over a desk and arresting her in class, then we have a serious problem. It is not a mutual denial of respect that cancels itself out and results in ‘justice being served’.

If a young boy denies the authority of a cop by saying or doing something the cop doesn’t like, and the cop responds by denying the boy’s humanity by shooting him in the back while he flees, we have a serious problem. If an even younger boy frightens a fully grown hispanic man by walking and wearing a hoodie in his neighborhood, denying his imaginary ‘authority’ as a resident of the neighborhood who wants to feel safe by only seeing white people wearing white people clothes, and the full grown man denies the boy his humanity by shooting him in the street, then we have a serious problem.

If a tall, large black man denies a cop’s authority by selling loose cigarettes in the street and not acting properly deferential when confronted, and the cop responds by kneeling on his chest and listening to him gasp “I can’t breathe” until he dies, we have a serious problem. If a black man denies a cop’s authority by breaking a law, and a cop responds by tying his hands and bouncing him around in the back of a police van until he dies, we have a serious problem.

If a woman committing no crime is confronted by police and flouts the cop’s authority by threatening to get a lawyer and sue for a civil rights violation, and two days later winds up dead under suspicious circumstances while in police custody, we have a serious problem. Oh — and if the violent, paranoid, murderous bullies committing the crimes described in this paragraph are rewarded with fundraising for legal fees, messages of solidarity from community members and fellow cops, pats on the back from hate groups, and paid time off for the duration of lengthy in-house “investigations” in which no charges are ever filed, then we have a serious problem.

If being black and young and wearing a hoodie or holding a cellphone or making a snotty comment or being argumentative or not immediately complying and acting with meek deference is enough to constitute a threat to life and limb, and to warrant the use of violent or lethal force, we have a serious goddamn problem.

We have many, many fine cops in this country who know the difference between a threat to their authority and a threat to their life, who would only respond with force when necessary to keep themselves alive. We also have too goddamn many horrible cops who think that it is appropriate to respond to denial of authority with a bullet in the back or a boot to the chest or a baton to the head. If there is one there is too many, and we’ve had dozens this YEAR. Every good cop and every citizen should be up in arms, rooting out these paranoid and racist cops who think that nothing more than hoodies and black skin are legitimate threats to their lives. We should yank them out of the force and educate them on what “unarmed non-threat” means. We should hold cops accountable when they abuse their power and abuse their community members, and not form a big blue wall of willful silence and acceptance of violent crimes in the name of ‘brotherhood’.

We should not sit behind our keyboards, safe in our whiteness, and insist that “If only they had been RESPECTFUL they would be alive.” We should send the message that racial profiling has no place in our justice system. Brutalizing and murdering high school aged kids has no place here. Racism and paranoia and persecution have no place here.

All young black men deserve to make it home alive and all cops deserve to make it home alive at the end of the day, but blacks being murdered by cops is a big problem right now, so they get the hashtag and everyone else is just going to have to shut up and deal, or better yet speak up and help. But don’t confuse ‘respect for authority’ with ‘respect for human life’. “Disrespect for authority” still does not carry the death penalty in this country, so far as I am aware.



Nicole Hallberg

Philly freelance blogger. Follow @nickyknacks for the personal stuff and for my work stuff.