(Image via didierruef.com)
With the killing of yet another unarmed black man by the police, America is in dire need of some serious self reflection. While slavery and the fight for equal civil rights is over from a legal point of view, systemic racism and violence towards black people is still very much alive and well. This is, after all, a country that exonerated a man who executed a black teenager carrying nothing more than a can of iced tea and some candy who was running away from him. In America, that counts as self defense.
The notion that black people are inherently criminalistic is so embedded in the American psyche that the majority of Americans aren’t even aware that they are racist. If you think this is an exaggeration, a segment from ABC’s ‘What Would You Do?’ social experiment series should set the record straight. The producers of the show set up a scene in a park where three people tried to steal a bike during broad daylight. At different times during the day, a white teenage boy, a black teenage boy, and a blond girl attempt to saw through the lock in front of passersby. The reactions from the public are, well, pretty damn shocking:
Perhaps the most alarming part of this experiment is the revelation that even some black Americans have been conditioned to assume white innocence.
The sad reality is that often in America, white people are presumed innocent, while blacks are routinely shot for wearing the wrong clothes. When Americans think of successful white people, they think doctor, business man, or lawyer, but when they think of successful black people, they think athlete, rapper, or criminal. And it probably isn’t their fault for thinking this way given American culture reinforces this on a subconscious level in every medium available.
The police make split second judgments during altercations, and like everyone else, they are susceptible to these prejudices. Unfortunately, those prejudices are leading to the untimely deaths of an alarming number of unarmed black men, and this has got to stop. But we cannot single out the police here – they merely reflect the country’s obsession with black criminality and act upon its inherent prejudices. Of course not all Americans are racist, and not all policemen target black men unfairly. But too many do, and the problem is that they are probably unaware of it.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.