Monday, July 27, 2009

Preferential Bias versus Racism

This past week has underlined the problem of Racism yet again in the arrest of a prominent Harvard professor by an equally accomplished Police Officer who was not only trained in racial matters but actually teaches other police officers about racial profiling and how to properly deal with different racial cultures.

Basically this boils down to eyewitness reports, and past reputations of each person involved. Regardless of what happened, I’m sure that little doubt exists that the situation escalated from a black/white preferential bias. The Police Commissioner of Cambridge who is black, had hand- picked Sgt. Crowley to train new recruits because of his ability to grasp the issues of tension between blacks and whites, and did so calmly, in high tension situations. Sgt. Leon Lashley, a fellow officer who so happens to be black, who was present during the confrontation and subsequent arrest, recalls that Professor Gates reaction to Sgt. Crowley was "a little bit stranger than it should have been." When asked if Sgt Crowley was correct to arrest Gates, Lashley said yes “100% correct.”

I have absolutely no doubt had all the people involved been either all black, or all white, that the incident would not have spiraled so wildly out of control. The larger question here is why? Is it because African Americans can’t relate to whites and vice versa? If that is the case, again the question is, why? Was the situation driven by frustration on the Professor’s part? Was the situation driven by a problem with authority, and if that was the case, was it accelerated by the fact the officer was white? If so, again the question is, why? Does Professor Gates have an anger problem that was accelerated because of frustration?

Only the people involved can answer these questions, but the underlying issue is what makes African-Americans and whites so adversarial? We all have preferential biases…EVERYONE! Circumstances and experiences in our lives form the biases we have, they form who we are.
When I say preferential bias, I don’t mean racism, I mean the things we like to do, the friends we keep, the places we live, the sports we like. We PREFER something, and because of the preference we become biased. Now everyone is entitled to their own opinion, that is one of the things that makes our country great. The problem is when our preferences interfere into someone else’s space. When our bias affects someone else’s life, the border has been crossed.

We are a country of personal freedoms, and with that will always come problems. When the amount of preferential bias interferes with the lives of others some interpret that to be racism. Although bias is a personal choice, and our country is known for heralding that freedom, it doesn’t mean we should choose those people to govern us or make our laws. Our leaders, judges, and law makers should be held to a higher standard. Sometime we didn’t see the true extent of that person’s bias when we voted for them. One of the great things about our country is that when we make voting mistakes, we can fix them in the next election.

To bridge those large gaps we need to put aside things of the past. Let’s admit it, nobody alive was a slave, and nobody was a slave trader. Let’s put this argument aside, and then remove the very things that separate us…..the BIAS. This is the generation that elected an African-American President for god sake! Let’s rid our country of affirmative action, let’s throw the chains of “aggressor/victims” aside, and give everyone an even playing field. Then and only then can the healing and understanding begin.

1 comment:

barb p said...

Very well written Al…I agree totally..