Over the past few weeks since the shooting of Michael Brown the discussions on the various cable channels have been quite interesting. It truly illustrated that your perception of the shooting all comes from your point of view. If you are conservative, whether black or white, you find every reason you can point to Michael Brown’s past and actions on that day to justify the officer’s shooting of that young man six times. You strive for every fact to prove your point that the shooting was justified. If you are liberal, you are doing the same thing except it is too valid the outrage over the shooting. And when you take the same facts and use it to justify your position, it bring it home, we are all willing to ignore certain components or frame the facts to justify our point of view.
Let me provide one example. A number that has been used by both sides, that 400 plus people have been reported to the FBI by police department around the country as having been killed by police officers. Now, if you watch Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, he talks about the small number (414 this past year) which have been killed, indicating that this is not a major issue and down plays the idea that police are targeting black males. That it is the liberal press that are fanning the flames and making this a racial issue. On the other hand, Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC used the same numbers, but then stated “from 2006 to 2012 a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in this country.” It is the clearest example of how one use numbers and in what context. Yes, the number is small, but it all comes down to the value of a human life. Two times a week equal 104 deaths. That is 25% of the number of deaths, where the total number of African Americans in the United States is only 12% of the population. Again, it is the context one views the numbers that determines how you use them.
Unfortunately, as Harold Freeman once said, “Race is perhaps the single most defining issue in the history of American society.” And that “in our society we see, value, and behave toward one another through a powerful lens of race.” The key word in all of this is realizing that we have tied all of this to how we VALUE a human life, especially one that is either black or brown. The problem is that we have never had a sustained and honest discussion about this issue. It is something we bring up only after someone white kills a black person and questions are asked about the shooting and the community gets outraged to the point you can’t ignore it. Let get back, for a moment, to the issue of the value of a human life. You know, I haven’t seen anything about the 32 black people who have killed since Michael Brown was shot. Again, it is the issue “VALUE.”
So with the killing of Jordon Davis and now with the killing of Michael Brown, I again bring up the issue of VALUE. Think about this, the first word on the road to ethics is VALUE. Webster defines ethics as a system of moral principles governing the appropriate conduct for an individual or group. It is how we interact with one another. Ethics involves two terms VALUE and morals. Moral, VALUE and the word belief are terms that refer to the ways people think, behave and react toward one another. These three terms are often interchanged as having the same meanings. However, each has a separate meaning of its own. Each term builds upon the other terms, beginning with beliefs. Values are a type of belief, and morals are a type of value. All three terms refer to ethics, which deals with a person’s conduct. Now think about all of this in terms when one holds a negative stereotype about a group and meets someone who fits that stereotype. He or she may be the nicest person in the world with no outward biases. But that individual unknowingly will discriminate against that individual who he or she holds a negative stereotype of. Stereotype-linked bias is an automatic and unconscious process. More importantly, as I have stated, it even occurs among people who do not think they are prejudice. The problem is that the vast majority of white Americans refused to believe this, and there lies the problem. It is not that you have the bias; it is what you do with it, especially in a stressful situation.
So lets see how this might play out in terms of a confrontation between an unarmed black person and a white police officer, and in some cases a black police officer. It’s time we realized that who you are equals what you think. Just look at all of the recent polls and the difference in the responses between black and white Americans. If you approach a large young black male who shows any sign of aggression, if you are white and have been programed to believe certain things, what will be your initial reactions? You may not mean for it to be such, but your mind set has been pre-programmed. I made the comment about an incident with my grandson when he was about three. Two elderly white women came up to him and said how cute he was. I immediately asked the question whether they would think the same thing about him as a teenager. I think not! When a white mother realizes that, not only does she needed to exposed her black male child to his culture so that he is proud of who he is, but she needs to be aware “your black son could be killed for walking down the street or Police officers might also kill your son for walking to his nana’s house while black, next to the curb instead of on the sidewalk, and then trying to explain to the officer that he is just going to see his nana or some people — many people — will support the rights of citizens and law enforcement to kill your son for walking with Skittles to Nana’s while black” (quote from the blog, “What Adoption Classes Didn’t Teach Us About Raising Black Children” by Paula Fitzgibbons), you know we have a problem. It point out clear the impact of race on how one values an individual of color, whether you think you are prejudice or not. Only when we realized that we still have these deep seeded biases based on race and/or skin color, will the issue of the devaluation and dehumanization of a group of people start to be resolved. Only then will see a significant reduction in unarmed black males being shot by white police. Only then will we see a rise in the number of high school graduate of color. Only then will America reach its true potential. And yes, it all boils down to the word VALUE. What you VALUE you treated with respect and dignity.