“Black and blue and who knows which is which and who is who?” — Roger Waters
This time of year brings many high emotions and deeply held opinions. February is Black History Month with some wondering why we spend so little time on diversity. Others wonder why we are spending any time at all. Racism exists or doesn’t exist in the eye of the beholder.
Situations always come up that make us wonder and we had another one crop up in New Jersey. Obviously, news organizations cover these events in their own way and it can vary some depending on the source. As you might imagine, social media responses run the gamut. At the very least, it demonstrates the need for a continuance of the national conversation.
For those that don’t care to go down the rabbit hole, two teenage boys got into a fight at a shopping mall in New Jersey. Police appeared to respond very differently to the two boys. The white participant is allowed to sit on a sofa until the confrontation was over. The black participant didn’t get nearly the same treatment.
Obviously, such videos create just as many questions as they do answers. What happened before the video began? Is one boy more responsible than the other for the fight starting? Did witnesses provide the police with their own perceptions that might have impacted how both boys were dealt with? Were they harder on the black boy because he appeared to be winning the fight? The coup de grace is the question of what happened immediately after the video abruptly ended?
These are all pertinent questions and I’m sure they will come up in an investigation. In many ways that will be unfortunate. I seriously doubt we will hear the results of said investigation. That’s especially true if they find other mitigating factors that can explain why the two boys were treated so differently.
The social media reaction is very telling. Those outside the country don’t necessarily understand the baggage that comes with another event like this. For what it’s worth, the white participant told authorities he didn’t understand why they were treated differently. Maybe that was a moment of honesty. Maybe just maybe there is a little hope for the future.
As for the here and now, it is another very visible example that we aren’t where we need to be. Whether those two officers were wrong or right, the video is proof that perceptions are that we are not equal. If Critical Race Theory can be defined as “systems laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race” then we could credibly argue that this video is proof that these systems are real and need to be studied and debated.
Of course, many states (including Texas) don’t want that to happen. At least, they don’t want it to happen in school. We aren’t racist anymore. We can all gather around the camp fire and sing “Kumbaya” and hold hands. Whether something makes our kids feel bad is not the standard we should be using. We know it exists. The video above is proof enough for most people.
The funny thing is that those two particular officers can credibly claim that they are not racist. They may even be able to prove that they reacted appropriately in that situation. That’s not really the point. The point is outcomes. If the outcome in situations like that seem to consistently create unequal treatment then that would be evidence of the very thing that CRT opponents want to sweep under the rug. Welcome to Black History Month. May these conversations not cease once the calendar strikes March 1st.