Yesterday I was in New York for Wesleyan meetings and was shocked when the grand jury there decided not to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner with a chokehold. The streets were filled with folks demanding justice. The death was ruled a homicide, and through a video we could all witness the horrible attack on an African American man, who just asks to be left alone. Yet, the officer said he didn’t intend to hurt Eric Garner, and that seems to have been enough for the jurors.
Charles Blow put it this way in a column this morning:
Racism is interpersonal and structural; it is current and historical; it is explicit and implicit; it is articulated and silent.
Biases are pervasive, but can also be spectral: moving in and out of consideration with little or no notice, without leaving a trace, even without our own awareness. Sometimes the only way to see bias is in the aggregate, to stop staring so hard at a data point and step back so that you can see the data set. Only then can you detect the trails in the dust. Only then can the data do battle with denial.
Our desire to live in a world without racism, without prejudice and brutal bigotry, shouldn’t blind us to the realities of oppression all around us. Let this desire energize us to make change, to not only alleviate suffering but to fight injustice. Education should help us acknowledge the realities in the world — not simply to accept them.
Education should empower us to change the world. To make it a place where all can breathe more freely.