I’ve been trying to find ways to express my thoughts of the two alleged cases of police brutality and the mass shooting targeting police officers in Dallas. After starting and scraping several posts, I discovered that somebody already wrote it. The surprising part is that it was found on Red State, a strong conservative web site. I highly recommend that one reads this article.
Think, though, about what happens when these invisible bonds that are the most important part of maintaining law and order begin to dissolve – especially within a given subcommunity. Perception is, quite often, more important than reality. We are, in addition, creatures of our upbringing. The way our parents raise us to think about people and institutions shapes us to degrees that we often can’t or won’t acknowledge.
There are a number of reasons why we are seeing the violence between blacks and police officers that we are seeing today. Underlying all of these reasons is an ugly trait that is inherent in all of us: bias. Justified or not, people in rural America and the suburbs see black communities as violent, crime ridden neighborhoods. Justified or not, members of the black communities see police officers as an oppressive force that harasses and wrongfully kill them. Justified or not, a number of police officers view the people they are supposed to protect and serve as children that they have to babysit.
These are all examples of biases that people hold. Biases are formidable beasts that are difficult to slay. Once a bias has formed, logic and reason become ineffective as people will continue to believe what they want to believe. Any information that shows a bias to be wrong, is ignored or even attacked.
What can we do about bias? The first thing we can do to work on our own biases. To do that, we need acknowledge what we think we know might be wrong. Instead of outright accepting or dismissing a fact based on what we want to believe, we need to evaluate it on its own merits. If the fact is true, we need to accept it even if we don’t want to believe it. If the fact is false, it needs to be discarded even if we want it to be true. While it might be simple to say this, to actually practice it is very difficult and takes work and introspection.
Another thing we can do about biases is for this nation to have a grown up conversation about the grievances on all sides of this issue. Until minorities are heard and changes are made to address why they believe that they are unfairly targeted, there will continue to be protests of all high profile police shootings of minorities. Until police officers are heard and changes are made so that they do feel that they are seconds from being shot by some thug, there will be more people shot for what appears to be trivial reasons. However, this takes everyone to be grown up and realize that the members of the other side have valid problems.