Saturday, July 9, 2016

Finding Humanity

The Black Lives matter movement is sometimes dismissed as unnecessarily focusing on race.  Don't "all lives matter"?  Of course, this misses the point - that the implied refrain is "black lives matter too", pointing out the fact that there is a obvious pattern of blacks being treated with less restraint than whites in similar exchanges.  
It doesn't seem seem like such a stretch to say that because of disproportionate levels of poverty in black communities, and adjunctive criminal behavior, that police would be more sensitive to threat from blacks. I imagine police work in general is toxic to one's ability to treat others with kindness and good-will, when constantly exposed to the worst elements of society. So I can understand that an environment likely develops in which people become dehumanized.
* A personal anecdote (I am white): The one serious run in with police I had was when my car back fired as I tried to fix it on the side of the road. Someone in the neighborhood called the police, reporting gunshots and giving them my description. I found my self surrounded, was thrown to the ground. They ignored my telling them I had neck injury and painfully yanked my hands behind my back. They put me in a squad car and searched my vehicle, all the while explaining nothing, aside from a report of gunshots. After around 20 minutes, they told me with zero sympathy in affect, that I was free to go. Throughout the ordeal I had been extremely cooperative (guns were pointed at my head). I've never forgotten and felt profoundly humiliated.
I agree that overt racism is likely not the issue. However, the "implicit bias" cannot be brushed off. Cultural stereotypes are rampant, and of course must be fuel to any dehumanization already present in routine policework.
I would think the solution is to take this psychological phenomenon seriously, and embed systematic protections into the system. Maybe a certain amount of professional development time is set aside in which each officer is given the chance - maybe at least a day a month to engage in positive community relations activities as a sort of positive stimulus to counterbalance the negative stimuli they encounter routinely.

No comments:

Post a Comment