Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Would You Stop a Bike Thief?

When we at 6and44 try to explain our mission, most people don't immediately understand. Let me rephrase that. Most Caucasians don't understand.  Most African Americans and Latinos, even those in law enforcement and the criminal justice system, are well aware of the inequitable distribution of enforcement and punishment, otherwise known as racial profiling. 

When we start to talk to Caucasians about the issue of the disporoportionate percentage of African American men in prison, however, we are often met with a quizzical look, and people ask something on the order of, "But if they do the crime, shouldn't they do the time?" At this point, we typically launch into a discussion about the research, which shows that African Americans are stopped and frisked for drugs at a ratio of 5:1 over their Caucasian counterparts and at every level of the criminal justice system, blacks are swept into the system at a disproportionate rate, when it fact research shows that whites use drugs at a higher rate.

The following video from ABC's show "What Would You Do?" shows how our perceptions and racial biases can play out in real life.  Watch how people react to three separate scenarios involving a Caucasion male, an African American male, and a sexy, white female as they try to steal a bike. What would you do??

Action step: Question your own racial biases, and confront them. The next time you watch television, for example, analyze how the characters are portrayed. Do they reinforce your racial biases? If you close your eyes and picture a drug dealer, what image comes into your head?

Chances are your image is not supported by the data.

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