We need to sit down and have a family conversation America.
Portland Oregon, December 22, as 2019 was fast arriving, another black man was racially profiled, had the police called on him, and he was shamefully kicked out of a Doubletree hotel he was staying at as a guest.
The US feels more divided than ever. When we say “Black Lives Matter,” people hear instead that we are against the police. When athletes take a knee in civil protest at a game to remind people of the injustices that face unarmed black men and women every day as they experience deadly encounters with the law, the president rails against them to garner support.
Our civil liberties and our constitution matter. It matters that we give people the freedom to express protest. It also matters that we look at how we (as non black people) are reacting to our fellow citizens that takes away their right to exist and move about freely.
I want us to pause for a second and ask “why?” Why do so many Americans see a black man and think “threat.” Why have we been conditioned to do so? What can we do differently so that this shameful treatment stops happening? Do we meaningfully check our assumptions? Do we even see when we have them?
Recently I read about James Comey starting his time as FBI director by adding training curriculum to new FBI trainees at Quantico on the history of the FBI abuse of power and authority towards Martin Luther King Jr. Future agents and analysts have to look at their agency’s deep shameful sins and see how lazy legal work, abuse of power and the law, unequal treatment of different races, and profiling of minorities led to injustices in their history. I could not be prouder or love them more as an agency for doing this hard work. It takes courage to look at a personal history and to try to learn from it. The LA Times covered some of the curriculum here.
It is time the rest of us do the same. The next time you see a black person and begin to think threat, pause, and ask yourself “why?” Ask yourself “why am I wrong?” Question your assumptions and feelings. What could it cost them in life or dignity if we act on our false perceptions?