I’ve been writing posts in advance so I have content to publish regularly. My post for this week was supposed to be about mental health and pandemic environments, but it felt weird to let it post this week.
Everything that has happened over the past couple of weeks, the awakening that started when George Floyd was killed…so many people finally tuning in suddenly realizing how out of whack things are, even though they’ve been out of whack long before any of our lives began. People wearing t-shirts saying “Black Lives Matter” and studying up on white privilege. I’ve been waiting for these past couple of weeks for most of my life. For all this to matter and to finally hit peoples’ radars on a large scale.
I hope this lasts. Personally. Please see the depths of this. It’s not about police brutality. It is about a very broken way of life and a broken society. There are at least two reasons we should not place policing at the focus of all this.
First, when things go wrong, we look for someone to blame so we don’t have to look at ourselves and take accountability for how we have contributed to the issue – oppression, racism, privilege, opportunity (or lack of), etc., and what we can do differently at the most basic level as an individual.
The second reason, from a justice perspective, is that if we only pay attention to the front of the system, then we miss the accumulation of disparity – like a giant snowball of injustice – that occurs once people get past that first gate. Did you know that there are 5 black people for every 1 white person under some type of supervision in our justice system? There are 3 Latinx/Hispanic people for every 1 white person (and that is severely undercounted due to our poor ethnicity data capture in our justice system). People of color are less likely to make bail during the pretrial period. They are less likely to retain adequate defense. More likely to take poor plea deals. More likely to be sentenced more severely than white people accused of the same crime with the same criminal history (sometimes even less of a criminal history than their white counterparts). They are less likely to be diverted to programs the prevent further involvement in the system. Less likely to be sentenced to a treatment court that focus more on treatment of substances or mental health rather than incarceration. More likely to have their probation or parole revoked due to technical violations (as opposed to new crimes).
In our current system, this means that even if a populationally proportionate amount of people of color to white people enter our justice system, they still will experience disparate treatment at every stage of the process.
That’s just one aspect of our society. Looks for stats in every segment of our society, private or public sectors. Look for underrepresentation of people of color in our corporate executive leadership, the number of people who fall out of hiring pools because they have “black” sounding names, look at health indicators (look at who COVID 19 is hitting in disproportionate numbers), morbidity and mortality rates, high school graduation rates…
Oh – there is also intersectionality to consider. What is intersectionality? Think of these as layers of a person’s characteristics that either cause them to be more or less advantaged in society. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression are all examples of characteristics that, when layered on top of each other, can make life easier or harder for an individual in certain circles. Google Kimberlé Crenshaw to learn more about intersectionality. She coined the term more than 30 years ago.
Finishing with my beginning thought. I hope Black Lives Matter is not a trend. I hope people stay grounded and don’t fall into an “us versus them” mentality in regards to any group of people (which seems to be the trend on all issues over the past couple of years).
Finally, I hope people stay awake, stay curious and stay introspective.