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Do Try This At Home

 

Brain Workings

 

One unintended consequence of video technology is the public unveiling of a phenomenon long unknown to many white Americans: The unjust treatment of African Americans at the hands of white authorities. Also made visible is bias in action. 

 

Front Row Seats

 

These days, Americans of all colors are getting a front row seat in witnessing the burden of bias that suffocates America’s collective potential by turning us against one another. The video of Walter L. Scott’s murder is just one of many that have surfaced lately, making visible the way black American’s lives are under attack. And let’s face it, what human being can possibly thrive when in survival mode? How can any country thrive when its people are too often in attack or defense mode?

 

Blame

 

Though it’s easy for me to blame (and even hate) the police bias I see in the media, I find my own bias surfacing as I take in coverage of these unfolding events. Because bias is super sneaky and can seduce me into old thought and feeling patterns, I frequently monitor my thinking with a Flip-The-Script test — a technique I learned from Tim Wise’s essay, What If the Tea Party Were Black? Repeatedly putting my mind through this exercise is crucial to weakening old thought patterns. It also prevents me from seeing the police as bad and myself as good, another old us/them counterproductive habit of mind.

 

Yes No Maybe

 

Even after all the work I’ve done to unearth my bias, when I see a black man on the news being hunted, harassed, or killed by police, I can still count on my inner white supremacist voice to squeak out a justification. “Wait, he was a deadbeat dad,” or “But wait, he was running away. He should’ve stayed in the car.” The voice of justification always strives to rebuild my old belief system – the one that assures me America is a country based on fairness and everyone gets what he or she deserves. In that moment I need to remind myself that a lifetime of justifying injustice is now a habit of mind to be managed. I need to ask myself, “Would I be okay seeing a white guy get shot to death because he wasn’t paying child support? Because he got out of the car and ran for his life?”

As the reality of biased policing becomes harder and harder to ignore, I offer up the below Flip-The-Script practice test to explore your own habits of thought with regard to this syndrome.

Take The Test

How it works.

1) Watch each of the six videos below. *

2) As you do, flip the race of the person police are focusing on from white ➡ black or black ➡ white.

3) Notice how your perception of the situation changes.

* (click on VIDEO # to watch)

VIDEO #1

vid 1

California WHITE man, armed and threatening to shoot. Police negotiate with him for one hour before shooting-to-subdue and bringing him to a trauma center for treatment. Flip gunman to BLACK.

 

VIDEO #2

vid 2

 

South Carolina BLACK man stopped for not wearing a seatbelt. When he reaches in car for license police shoot him. Flip driver to WHITE.

 

 

 

VIDEO #3

vid 3

Phoenix WHITE man fights police trying to subdue him. After throwing punches he runs away before being apprehended. Eventually additional officers arrive and are able to secure him, at which point he goes into medical distress. He is quickly transported to the hospital but dies en route. Flip police beater to BLACK.

 

VIDEO #4

vid 4

 

Arizona BLACK woman thrown to ground after being stopped for jaywalking. Flip jaywalker to WHITE.

 

 

 

VIDEO #5

vid 5

Michigan WHITE man, waves gun and swears at police. Police negotiate with him for 40 minutes until man lays gun on ground. Officers discover rifle is empty at which point they offer to drive him home. Flip gunman to BLACK.

 

 

VIDEO #6

vid 6

 

Michigan BLACK man pulled over for not stopping at stop sign. Thrown to ground, put in chokehold, punched 16 times, tased 3 times. In another too-common practice, a cop on the scene planted a bag of cocaine on the man and accused him of possession. (Think this last statement is over-the-top? Read The New Jim Crow.) Flip driver / drug plant victim to WHITE.

 

 

 

Futility

 

If you’re surprised by your inner workings, please know you’re not alone. Getting rid of bias is not the goal, in fact it would be futile to try. Our best defense is to recognize and manage it so it doesn't manage us. In my experience, that effort is best done with a balanced dose of self-engagment and cross-racial community engagement. Here’s a resource for each. 

 

CONNECT TO YOURSELF

Learn more about how your brain works. You can even take more tests at Harvard’s site, Project Implicit.

 

CONNECT TO YOUR COMMUNITY

Join and/or offer financial support to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Find out more about who in your community may already be organizing and educating for racial justice by visiting the Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) website.

 

Jame Baldwin

 

 

Images Found on the Below Sites

Brain Mechanics redorbit.com

Front Row Seats sweetpotatoqueenscorner.blogspot.com

Blame aphilosopherstake.com

Yes, No, Maybe feminspire.com

Take the Test lloydspharmacy.com

Exzercise in Futiluty  cartoonstock.com

James Baldwin Quote buzzfeed.com

Videos #1 – #6  screenshots from online videos 

4 thoughts on “Do Try This At Home

  1. Faith Reidenbach says:

    Debby, thank you for encouraging white people to join SURJ:Showing Up for Racial Justice. The SURJ chapter in Corvallis, Oregon was born out of a group that came together to discuss Waking Up White. We are continuing to form groups to discuss that book, as just one of our projects.

    Nationally, SURJ is a staunch supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and is mobilizing white people to work for racial justice in every other way possible–following the lead of people of color. Some chapters/affiliates are multiracial. The BLM movement has taught me that while reading and study are important, ACTION is needed in order to be accountable to people of color.

  2. Sherry Gordon says:

    Dear Debby,

    Hi, there, my so, so very sweetly special and preciously dearest white friend and sister who you are For Always so, so very much, Debby!!!!! Wow, wow, wow and wow, sister, I just so love a whole bunch this great and enlightening blog post article of yous, sisterfriend!!!!!! And I cherish your dear heart and your courageously so full of integrity honesty, and your very conscientious and diligent work in composing this very grand and insightful blog post article, sister!!!!!!!  I love the videos which you poster, and you are right on and so relevant, sister, when you describe how the outcomes would have been quite different if the script had been flipped to be a black person in the exact same scenarios. Sister, something went wrong with video # 4-I could not get it to work-it said that the youtube person's account had been terminated due to copyright infringement. I had trouble accessing video # 5 when it said that the video no longer existed. sisterfriend, I will keep trying to access videos # 4 and # 5 because maybe this is just a temporary problem with these videos for the time being.

    Sister, your very precious heart and your so brave honesty in sharing so  openly about your bias that still pops up and how you still have thoughts that are indicative of bias and using white privilege just goes straight to my very heart, sisterfriend!!!!!! Debby, I so, so very much appreciate your honesty and integrity, and how you are en route in your imperfect lifetime's path and journey in healing and recovery from racism and as you deal with white privilege. I can just imagine in my mind's eye and when I pray and meditate that if I were a white person in general or if I were a white woman that I, too, would have subconscious bias that would still pop up and that I would have issues with racism and using white privilege that would take an imperfect lifetime of healing and recovery to work on, my precious white sisterfriend. It is very much indeed perfectly alright, okay, and normal to be imperfect, Debby, I always say the slogan progress not perfection, and I know in my very heart, and in my very heart, soul, and spirit that you are very much indeed doing your absolute very best, Debby!!!!!! Debby, I love how you said, "If you're surprised by your inner workings,please know that you're not alone.  Getting rid of bias is not the goal, in fact it would be futile to try."  The sister you with such sagacity composed the stroke of very genius when you said, "Our best defense is to recognize and manage it so it doesn't manage us.' You are so right, sister, this is so very true, my friend!!!!!! I thank-you so for the great blog post article this is overall and I love your process in engaging in your insightful and inspirationa. as well as honest, sefl-reflection. Thank-you as well for all of the resources you listed, and for the brilliant quote by our late James Baldwin.  Thank-you so, For Always, my so, so very special and dearly precious white friend and sister who you are For Always so, so very much, Debby!!!!!!!

    Peace & Love to You For Always, Debby, my precious white sister, and very Warmly & Sincerely For Always with Blessings & Even More Blessings To You For Always, my dearest white sisterfriend,

    Your Christian lesbian black friend and sister For Always in solidarity, Sherry Gordon

    1. Debby Irving says:

      Sherry – I just tried those two links that didn't work for you. They work fine on my end so I suggest trying again or from a different computer. Thanks for always weighing in on my posts. Your support makes me smile and I hope one day we will meet! 1 Debby

  3. Mary Ann Bedwell says:

    In my new home, New Mexico, it is not black vs. white, it is Euro, Hispanic vs, Native Americans.  The same prejudices and their consequences are active here.

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