Have You Ever Heard That Saying
Have you ever heard that saying, it’s hard to know something you don’t know. You know, the premise being that when you’re somewhat ignorant about a topic, you’re unlikely to notice blind spots. Like, for example, I don’t know anything about molecular biology, so I’m not going go to go around telling people who do study molecular biology all about it. They know it better than I do. Now, imagine, if we applied this same thought process to issues such as race and discrimination. Most people don’t know what it feels like to be discriminated against, yet they continue to insist to know more than those who are.
A few weeks ago, Terrance Crutcher, an unarmed African American man, was shot in the back while walking towards a police car with his hands up. Crutcher is among the most recent of many unwarranted African American murders. As of July 7, 2016, 194 African Americans have been shot dead by police officers in America within this year alone. With people insisting for change in the criminal justice system, the idea was shot down, with the main argument being that it is unfair to stereotype all cops. But then why is it fair to stereotype African Americans and Latinos?
No single issue is as volatile to have a discussion in American than racism. Our psychology as Americans is painfully naive. We focus on the minor, trivial details in our society, but refuse to look at our country’s earliest and original sin: racism.
A recently released poll from CNN showed that non-minorities are far less likely than persons of color to believe that racism remains a serious issue in the US. In fact, statistically speaking, roughly ⅔ of African Americans and latinos believe that racism is a major issue in the US whereas only 4 in 10 of other Americans believe it is a problem. Even a simple realization of ongoing racial injustices in life opportunities shows differences along racial lines, with African American folks believing that their life chances differs markedly compared to most other races, with evidence showing that the typical African American family is worse off than the typical non-minority family in terms of income, education and housing. Most others, however, are evenly divided on the question, with about half of us failing to perceive such well-documented inequalities of condition. Despite the fact that African Americans are worse off in every single category of well-being, and despite research indicating that these disparities have direct correlation to the present time, most believe there are barely if any ongoing inequities in need of being addressed.
A study conducted at the University of Chicago showed that identical resumes with the names Emily or Michael are fifty times more likely to get called in for an interview than applicants with the name Jamal or Daquan. Yet, Americans still deny that racial inequality is an issue.
Despite the fact that African Americans with a college degree are twice as likely as others with a college degree to be unemployed, regardless of their field of study, most of the US doesn’t seem to see a problem.
Despite the fact that high school dropouts of the white and Asian races are three times more likely to find a job than African American high school dropouts, most Americans still fail to see a problem.
Despite the fact that African American children are three times more likely than other children to get suspended or expelled in spite of equal rates of infraction are largely the same, most Americans still fail to see a problem.
Despite the fact that African American folks are 2.07 times more likely to be searched during a vehicular stop but 26 times less likely to have a contraband found on them during the search, most Americans still fail to see the problem.
The effect of this rampant racial discrimination has now reached professional athletes, who are using their platform to make a statement. When Colin Kaepernick kneels for the national anthem to start a conversation about the subject of racial inequality, why is our first reaction to tell him, “if you don’t like the country, then get out.” When the new leader of the country, the President elect at the time, calls Colin’s actions “stupid and dumb” it is denial. If we continue on this path, we will never be able to identify this issue and solve it. Every time a young African American man gets shot, there is public outcry for around a week, and then we all go back to our normal lives.
The topic of racial inequality has persisted on through our country’s history far longer than it should. This conflict should have ended when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told us that people should be judged by the “context of their character rather than by the color of their skin.”
In March of 2015, four Florida police officers were found to be exchanging texts and videos of KKK rallies and talking about “killing negroes” except they didn’t quite say the word negro. More disparaging texts were discovered during what ended up as a 5 month investigation. The end result was 3 officers fired and 1 resigned. But it isn’t the end result which should concern us, it’s the fact that many officers knew of their peer’s bigotry and did entirely nothing about it. Certainly it is not fair to accuse and question every single police officer out there. The problem is with the particular officers and the system that enables bigotry and racism to flourish. Every time a young African American man gets shot, there is public outcry for around a week, riots and protests around the country. Then, somehow all is forgiven until another incident arises thus triggering more riots in the streets. Imagine a never ending cycle: such is the issue of racism in America.
The other day, my little cousin brother walked up and asked me a question. He asked, “Am i going to get shot?” Confused, I looked at him said, “no way, why would u get shot, buddy?” And he said, “Because I’m the same color as the other guy who was doing nothing wrong.”
What’s happening? Is this really the way we want the beautiful, “land of the free” to be looked at and perceived. Is this a place where one will be judged more for the way they look and what color they are rather than what’s inside them? Is this a country that is looked at by other world powers and laughed at due to the dysfunction?
No, of course not, and that’s why there’s hope. Most people understand that in order to solve the issue of gender inequality, both males and females had to take action. Similarly, the solution to racial discrimination requires commitment and participation by all Americans, regardless of ethnic background. What America needs is mirror. A mirror with which we can cure the psychological illness of racism and bigotry. One with which we can look ourselves in the eyes, and have a realization of the wrongs in our country. A mirror that spurs a moral and spiritual awakening. Only then will we go beyond uncovering individual racist police officers, but instead crushing the system that allows discriminatory attitudes and ideals to flourish and be considered okay. Only then will we realize what MLK was working towards: the fact that ALL humans are created equal. That all people are endowed with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.