Imagine living in a world where you had to fear for your life every single day. Where the ones who are paid to protect you are often your biggest adversary.
Imagine having to cautiously choose your clothes each morning, ensuring your appearance doesn’t make you look suspect. Literally calling your attire out over an imaginary police scanner to see if you fall into line with “safe” choices.
Imagine a society in which you are viewed as not equal, different, or not enough. Where no matter what you do, how much you love, or the way you act – you are constantly being questioned, judged, or even attacked.
Imagine being judged not for the good or bad that you have done. Not for your actions or words. Not even for your thoughts. But merely because you are “different” than most in power.
Why? Because you’re not white.
Imagine being told day in and out to “get over the past” and how “racism no longer exists” but watching your brothers and sisters of color being murdered by these same people. Of living in constant fear, especially when blue and red lights are involved.
Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of Philandro Castile’s death. He was shot multiple times with his girlfriend and her four year old daugher in the car.
I have zero desire to go into the logistics of this specific incident, to argue for or against the jurors, or to pretend like I was on scene and saw the situation from Philandro’s or the cop’s eyes. But one thing is abundantly clear – what happened was not okay.
You can blame inadequate police training or even Philandro for reaching for his wallet, but the real issue is racism. The real issue is that officer’s immediate bias toward Philandro due to the color of his skin.
That officer’s bias may have led to fear or maybe it was anger, but whatever that man “felt” was directed by one thing and one thing alone – bias.
It was a result of an entire country that views people of color as different, scary, bad, wrong, not enough – of not being white.
The same can be seen in a variety of other police brutality videos where a person of color ended up dead. These deaths are not a coincidence. They are fueled by a society that has a very flawed perception of everyone who is not white – especially if you are black.
Why aren’t more white people speaking up about this? Why are we leaving our brothers and sisters to fight this alone?
I think it’s a complete misunderstanding or even a denial of what, exactly, is going on. Are each of these police officers anger-fueled racists who outright hate people of color? No.
Our society is the issue.
Our communities are biased. These biased believers enter into our minds and become often subconscious thoughts. Fortunately, a lot of times the results of these thoughts are not murder.
But if you add a variety of factors to the equation – bias and irrational fear of a population, insufficient amounts of sleep, a highly stressful and intense job, etc. – then we get innocent black men murdered.
This issue cannot be fixed by focusing on individuals or small segments of people (i.e. cops). Can proper and more intentional police training help? Yes! But the real solution is a societal change.
The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is an attempt to uncover bias – not just toward race but for a variety of other biases as well (e.g. sexuality, weight, etc.). These implicit (unconscious) biases influence our thoughts, actions, and behaviors. Therefore, it is essential for us to bring them to awareness so we can actively correct them with truth.
Take a look at the map below – this data is compiled from those who have completed an online Implicit Association Test. There have been a variety of other tests / social experiments done that proves implicit bias in terms of race in the United States as well. (A link to a implicit bias test is included at the end of this blog.)
Sure, some people are actively racist. Some of these cops may harbor conscious and wrongful feelings about people of color in their thoughts. But honestly, our entire society should shoulder the blame for many of these wrongful deaths. It is our societal bias at play and we must do something about it.
Make a choice to start training yourself to guard against society’s bias. Help and encourage your friends and family members to do the same.
Put systems in place to hold yourself accountable and to actively create positive and accurate associations in your mind. We can work against our intrinsic bias, but in order to do so we have to continuously remind ourselves of that bias – reminding ourself of society’s views and how it affects our thoughts.
Have you ever not spoken up due to a fear of making things worse?
I have been guilty of this myself – even in writing this blog I felt like I needed to run it by one of my friends of color to make sure I didn’t say anything that could have been taken wrong. What if I don’t portray Philandro’s situation accurately? What if I ignorantly say something hurtful instead of helpful?
But then I put myself in the shoes of those who are being oppressed, abused, mistreated, and simply wronged – and I remembered that I would want people fighting with me. I would want those who care about me to speak up – to echo my voice.
Doing what’s right means speaking up. It doesn’t mean being afraid of saying the wrong thing – it means fighting for the fair treatment of others. It means not being silent. It means fighting against societal bias and being part of the solution – not part of the problem.
“Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?” – Malachi 2:10
Here’s a link to the test if you’re interested in taking it: Implicit Social Attitudes Test (Harvard)
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