It all started out with a simple selfie. Two smiling police officers and a simple message: let's put a human face on the folks behind the badge. There has certainly been a lot of talk lately on all sides of the political world about police officers. What many people agree on is that there are plenty of improvements to be made in the realm of law enforcement. Agreeing on what those improvements should be is a different matter, entirely. In the midst of all that arguing, though, police officers themselves tend to get lumped into what amounts to a single, nameless, faceless blue uniform. Some of it has to do with the extremely tight-knit community that these public servants cultivate. Check out any police officer's Facebook page and they're bound to be friends with officers in departments all over the country, sometimes even the world. They're often known for "protecting their own." However, our own instinct as humans is also toward black-and-white distinctions. All New Yorkers are rude, all Canadians are polite, etc. We don't leave a lot of room for grey areas.
When Brittany Hilton posted a picture of herself and her fellow officer and husband Steven onto her Facebook page, she had no idea things would go as far and wide as they did. Within a week or so, her post had been shared over 100,000 times. Most were from supporters though plenty were from detractors as well. Brittany's true intent at that moment was to say, "hey look, my husband and I, we're human beings, with a family, with friends, we smile, we're not the nameless villain in a political drama." Some of her word choices didn't sit well with people, though. And as the shares ticked upward, Brittany was faced with a lot of conversation she wasn't expecting. After all, how often do you carefully consider your Facebook posts, in the off-chance they suddenly take on a life of their own?
This happy-looking photo spread around the world like wildfire.
It was accompanied by a brief comment:
“All you may see in this photo is two smiling police officers. But there is more. We are husband and wife, parents to four beautiful girls, we are a son and a daughter, a brother and sister, a grandson and granddaughter, a niece and nephew. Steven is also an army veteran. We are friends to many. Before you say hateful things and put all officers in a category...remember we are all individuals attached to a delicate thin blue line. We are attacked daily and getting killed just for putting on a badge. You voice your opinion, and rally against law enforcement over tickets!! We are risking our lives.
This photograph was taken on Thanksgiving Day. My husband and I both decided to work, giving up time with our family so the community would be safe.
Think before you speak. Your words could promote deadly actions.
WE BLEED BLUE! All lives matter.”
While she hadn't necessarily thought her words could be taken in the light they were by many people, she wasn't afraid to actually think about the things she was hearing. Some of her words were being misinterpreted. At the time she posted this, she had been upset by some of the truly terrible, sometimes violent things she was hearing from people over traffic tickets. Unfortunately, in the context of everything else, people felt like she was unfairly misrepresenting why many people are seeking criminal justice reform.
She wasn't. This was a specific comment in response to specific threats at a specific time.
But one of the big sticking points for others was her use of the phrase, "All lives matter." This slogan is a widely contested and highly controversial phrase, with an almost unending back-and-forth battle over whether it undermines the activist message of the Black Lives Matter movement or not. Many feel it doesn't. Many feel it does. There doesn't seem to be much hope of reconciliation there.
Unless you're Brittany Hilton. She recently posted a follow-up, having taken stock of her original post and the events that followed.
“The past week has been a little crazy. My post has literally traveled around the world. I wish I would have known that it would go viral because I would have taken the time to explain that officers are not just getting killed over tickets. My original post was in response to some local criticism about tickets. I simply wanted to show others that we, my husband and I, are everyday people too, who are just trying to do a job and come home to our family. I am not blind to the fact that there is an ongoing race war in our country… My heart goes out to anyone who has been targeted, simply for the color of their skin, or the uniform they wear. The hate has got to stop. When I said All Lives Matter, it was not a poke at the Black Lives Matter movement. I truly feel that all lives matter. As long as I am a police officer, I will strive to bring victims justice.
I want to make a difference. I want to restore people’s faith in Law Enforcement.”
It might not suddenly solve all the world's ills, but it's a pretty beautiful statement, from someone in a field that is all-too-often polarized to extremes for political ends. Thanks, Brittany, for serving your community and being open-minded while you're doing it.
H/T: Brittany Hilton