By: Janet Morrison-Lane, Ed.D.
Yet another blow was dealt to everyone who believes that #blacklivesmatter: Police officers were cleared and all charges were dropped around their actions in the death of Freddie Gray.
That we continue to exonerate people who are killing others makes my head spin.
However, the reality is, we should all (and by "all" I mean all white people) be held accountable for the police shootings that have occurred.
We. Are. Guilty. How?
We are guilty of watching mainstream TV that stars mainly white characters and never questioning why the only shows about people of color display stereotypical roles.
We are guilty of shaking our heads when the nightly news presents a disproportionate amount of black men as criminals yet presents the opposite disproportionate amount of white people as heroes.
We are guilty of reading our history books and never questioning the representation of slaves as "workers."
We are guilty of being surprised and telling black people how "articulate" they are instead of assuming it from the beginning.
We are guilty of our heart rates going up when we see a group of black teenagers and not challenging a system that leads us to believe that black people are scary.
We are guilty of clutching our purse just a little bit tighter as we stand in an elevator with a black person without even realizing the message we are sending or why we have been conditioned to think black people will steal from us.
We are guilty of perpetuating a system that is more apt to provide a white male with a criminal record a job before we provide a black male with no criminal record a job.
We are guilty of building freeways over and around certain neighborhoods to avoid them instead of helping them create the economic development they need to be neighborhoods accessible to and for all people.
We are guilty of intentionally choosing to live in neighborhoods where everyone or almost everyone looks like us and rationalizing the heightened police presence when a black individual moves in.
We are guilty of telling poor, primarily black, school districts that education is not about money and refusing to accept raised taxes to help that district, then being willing to pay out of pocket to send our own children to a school that has smaller class sizes with many more opportunities to ensure our own children receive an education only money can buy.
We are guilty of believing that a black teen who wears a hoodie and "looks suspicious" is justifiably killed, but a white college student who sexually assaults an unconscious woman is justifiably set free.
We are guilty of believing that white men are more valuable and paying them accordingly while paying black men and women 75 cents and 64 cents (respectively) to every dollar a white man makes.
These incidents are what shape our view every single day. We see them on television. We witness them through news reports. We talk about them in coded language with our friends. Our racism is so pervasive that it is embedded deep in our unconsciousness. It does not and will not go away voluntarily. We have what's called implicit bias. And yes, it is a nice term for racism.
Like it or not, we are all racist. Don't fool yourself. It is ingrained in our system. However, being racist is not the real problem. Ignoring and pretending that we aren't, is.
Racism is like a people mover conveyor belt at the airport. We are all born and placed on the conveyor belt. We may not choose to walk forward and participate in racist activities, but just by standing we move along and are complicit in the racism that exists. The only way we can change things is by actively turning around and walking... possibly even running... against the moving conveyor. To do so, our policing system must change the way they look at and treat communities of color.
But... the onus is not only on the police.
In order for change to happen, it is on each of us to also look at the practices in our own companies and in our own neighborhoods. We must challenge hiring practices and neighborhood watch groups to be more aware about who they are keeping out and why. We must look at pay scales and realize that our own companies are creating disparities. And yes, we can do that. Our white privilege has put us in the roles of power that control these systems.
Police shootings are atrocious and must be stopped. However, the bigger concern to us should be the implicit biases that exist in our companies, media, and neighborhoods that are leading to shootings of unarmed black men. Until we recognize and decide to do something about those biases, the shootings will continue.
We can keep denying that we have white privilege or begin to investigate our own complicity. We have the power to make systemic changes. Now, what are we going to do about it?