Recent events, including the shooting death of Michael Brown, a young unarmed African American man in Ferguson, Missouri has re-awakened us as a nation to the continuing problem of race-based violence and racial profiling across the United States. These painful events brought needed national attention to the ongoing problems and complex inter-relationships of race and violence in this country. Sadly, our nation has a very long history of racial violence that has not been adequately treated and thus it persists. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defines racial profiling as a form of discrimination adding that discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion or nationality undermines our basic human rights. I can recount the times that I’ve been stopped by the police in my car or followed in the store. One incident stands out in my mind. It occurred in the spring of 1993 as I was driving home from college. I was stopped by the police for speeding. However, a second police car was called to the scene and if that wasn’t enough, they called for the drug search dogs. Why? I guess because a 19 year old African American female looks suspiciously like someone who would be transporting kilos of cocaine in their sports car. Nevertheless, they found nothing and I was released without even a speeding ticket, because I had not been speeding. So…..what happens when a person has been a victim of racial profiling?
Victims of race-based or anti-minority group aggression know that they have suffered. Yet they incur further psychological damage when despite an attack happening in the glare of daylight it goes unacknowledged.
Shame and guilt about unacknowledged hate and fear– and their denial– lead to emotional numbing and insecurity when in the presence of the majority (White Americans) population. These psychological factors in turn can restrict reason and judgment and may contribute to untempered aggression.
Patterns of racial profiling and race-based violence have a severe deleterious effect on the self-esteem of black youth who realize they are often seen as an ominous, unwanted “other”, no matter how pacific and innocent their activity. It leaves us to wonder, do young black men and young black women feel they have value in this country?
What needs to be done?
- Promotion of a sense of individual responsibility and “speaking out” against racism. Observers and bystanders must not be silent.
- Confrontation by the majority group of its unconscious prejudices and blindness to the effects of these prejudices on minority groups and on themselves. The majority’s role in minority problems must be actively examined and acknowledged
- Begin a national conversation about race, violence, and the related unresolved traumatic history in our country, bringing together minority and non-minority children and adults in neighborhoods, schools, churches and other communities.
- Educate teachers, pastoral care professionals and community group leaders to look for depression and behavioral problems in minority children who have been exposed to racial violence and profiling.
- Train law enforcement personnel in sensitivity to the psychological vulnerability of poor and minority populations.
- Examine state and local laws to see if they are designed to promote dialogue rather than to encourage violent confrontation.
We all need to remember that we are Michael Brown, and remember that whatever city we live in, is Ferguson.#JustiecforMikeBrown