Paul R. Lehman, Why European Americans call 911 when they see people of color

May 14, 2018 at 3:29 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, whites | Leave a comment
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The recent rash of incidents involving European Americans calling the police after seeing African Americans doing something they thought suspect should come as no surprise based on the ethnically biased social conditioning that is a part of their everyday American life experience.

The very first element of a European Americans life experience is the idea that they and all people who look like they look are the centers of the universe. From their skin complexion to their standards and values, society leads them to see themselves as superior to all people not like them. Everything in their immediate environment serves to support that concept. As their social environment begins to expand from the home to the neighborhood, church, and school, they are made to realize that they have privileges over people who are not like them.  The awareness of their specialness begins in the home where little if any interactions with people of color take place, but often negative references, actions, and reactions are observed as a normal part of their daily experiences.

The European American lady at Starbuck, the lady at Yale, the lady who saw the three African American women leaving the Airbnb all felt within their rights to call the police because they witnessed something their social conditioning told them was not normal. Apparently, none of these European American women gave any thought to their action before calling the police. Because of their conditioning relative to fear and danger associated with people of color, the primary thing to trigger their concern was the skin color of the people representing the threat to their sense of normalcy. I.e., ethnic bias against people of color by European Americans is triggered by skin color.

A European American female called the police when she observed an African American female asleep in her dorm’s common room. The student, a graduate student at Yale was awakened when the European American female told her she had no right to sleep there. The reason the European American female called the police was that of the fear and dread she felt by seeing a person of color in a place that was usually reserved, in the females mind, for European Americans. The brown color of the graduate student’s complexion sent a warning signal to the brain of the European American female, so she acted on it without any serious consideration regarding repercussions. She evidently felt unsafe in her home environment with a person of color present.

In another case, a European American female called police because two African American men were sitting in Starbucks without having purchased anything. We see again the reaction of a European American female to the presence of two men of color. Her social conditioning provides an uneasy feeling regarding them in this public but social setting. The two men were actually waiting for another person to join them, something common in Starbuck stores. Nevertheless, the police came, arrested the two men and took them to jail where they remained for around eight hours; no charges were filed against them.

A European American female in Rialto, California called police when she thought several African American women who were leaving an Airbnb rental looked out of place. That is, she thought it unusual for women of color to be in that neighborhood. When she noticed that they were loading baggage into a vehicle, she assumed that they were burglars. Shortly after the 911 call was made several police cars arrived on the scene. In addition, a helicopter flew overhead while the women were being questioned. Once again, the biased social conditioning this woman received relative to skin color helped to trigger her response to people of color being where she did not expect them to be by calling 911.

In all three of these incidents, the social conditioning of cultural biases played a significant role in the actions of the three European American females involved. Little or no thoughts were given to the well-fair of the African Americans because their social value was never in question. In each situation, the European American female seemingly believed seeing African Americans in the settings they were in was not normal. So, the automatic response was to call the police and have the discomfort removed.

The ethnic bias of the European American females was reinforced by the police who arrived on the scene already favoring the callers. The rights of the African Americans are immediately suspect as noted in the actions of the police officers and their immediate treatment of the African Americans. Rather than taking the time to assess the situation prior to any detaining or arresting actions, the police arrived on the scene already suspecting the African Americans of wrongdoings. The complicit police actions supported the biases of the European American females toward the African Americans.

Comments emanating from the police establishment of the three incidents mentioned above all suggest that the police were simply doing their jobs. Yes, they were doing their jobs, but only in support of the European American callers. The rights of the African American men and women were given little or no preference equal to that of the callers. The actions of the police seem to suggest that a call 911 is taken as fact without question, so doing their job means not giving the African American citizens involved their respect, rights or privileges. Many European Americans, as well as many police officer do not realize that America is a diverse society.

Because many European Americans live with an ethnic bias of which they are not cognizant, or their biases are implicit, the first order of business in replacing that bias is discovering that they have a cultural bias against people of color. Next, they need to confront their bias with the thought of replacing it with a more appropriate concept of a diverse humanity. Finally, once they know their bias and know how it is triggered, they can work towards overcoming it. While all Americans can address their bias using this process, European American in positions involving serving the public must certainly experience this form of education.

The problem of cultural ethnic bias as a part of social conditioning cannot be resolved easily or quickly because it involves commitment, discipline, and consistency. All three steps must be followed if success is to occur. Once we understand that bigotry is a part of a system, we will realize that biases do not exist in isolation, but they must be replaced individually.

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Paul R. Lehman, The Starbucks incident involving the arrest of two African American men shows the need for implicit education as well as training.

April 16, 2018 at 11:43 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, law enforcement agencies, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 3 Comments
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The recent arrest of two African American males at a Starbucks coffee shop in Philadelphia by police for no apparent reason has generated a plethora of questions regarding cultural bias and social justice. The situations, from media reports, involved two African American men who went to this Starbucks store to meet with someone. They apparently arrived before the party with whom they were to meet and so decided to sit and wait for their party. They asked to use the bathroom but were told by the employees that they could not use it because they had not purchased anything. At some point afterward they were asked by the employees to leave, but they refused.

 

The reports noted that a statement from the Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Richard Ross confirmed: “that on Thursday afternoon at 4:40 p.m., Philadelphia police received a 911 call from the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets alleging disturbance and trespassing.” The two men were arrested, handcuffed, and taken to jail where they were placed in a holding cage for approximately eight hours, then released. No charges were made against them. A number of the people in the store at the time made known to the officers that the men were doing nothing wrong.

 

Fortunately, the men were unarmed and cooperated with the police or the outcome of the incident could have been tragic owning to the experiences of other men of color interacting with police officers. However, the primary question is why were they arrested, cuffed, and taken to jail in the first place? We cannot be certain of the specific reasons, but we can certainly address some possibilities that led to the incident. One reason has to do with implicit cultural bias. The person who called 911 and informed the police that the two men were creating a disturbance and trespassing did so because of the perception and judgment of the men. Perhaps men of color did not frequent that particular Starbucks, so their presence was unusual for the caller to experience. So their presence in the store created in her a sense of fear.

 

After the incident, both Philadelphia’s mayor and the police Commissioner made statements relative to their concerns about the incident. The Commissioner commented that his officers did nothing wrong; they simply followed orders requested by Starbucks. He also underscored the point that all his commanders received implicit bias training. He also stated that all the new recruits visit both the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The visits to these museums are supposed to show the recruits ethnic atrocities committed by policing

 

The mayor commented that seeing the headlines of the Starbucks incident in the headlines

was disheartening to him and the incident “appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018.”He also suggested that Starbucks’ apology was not enough to satisfy his concerns about the incident and that he would look into whether the employees at Starbucks’ should receive more implicit bias training.

 

The one key phrase used by both the Commissioner and the Mayor was “implicit bias training.”To be sure, training is necessary when developing a skill is important, but what is more important and should come before the training is education. Both training and education are parts of the learning experience. However, most of the research over the last decade and longer indicate that people in general only have conscious access to 5 percent of our brains and that much of our brain’s work happens on the unconscious level. In other words, when implicit bias occurs, that does not mean that people are hiding their ethnic and cultural biases; in essence, they do not know they have these biases.

 

Training helps to develop skills while education helps one to understand the skills and how they should be implemented. Training officers, as well as people in general, might help them do their job in some aspect of human relations, but education is needed for them to understand the presence of implicit cultural biases in their perceptions of people. So, the reference to officers and employees receiving more implicit training seems to be counterproductive if the objective is for them to be cognizant of what they are doing when they are doing it.

 

An example of implicit bias might serve to underscore the point of training and education relative to implicit bias training. An incident occurred a year or so ago where an inmate form a medical facility had left the grounds and was sitting in the middle of the street playing with some object. Someone called 911 and the police arrived. When the attendant who was also in the street talking to the inmate saw the police, he lies on his back and put both hands in the air to show he was not armed or represented a threat to the officers. When an officer approached him with his gun drawn, the attended told him that he worked at the facility and was presently trying to talk the inmate back onto the facility grounds. The European American officer shot the African American attendant in the leg. When the attendant asked the officer why he shot him since he had no weapon and represented to threat to him, the officer answered, “I don’t know.”We might assume that the officer was not thinking but simply reacted to the bias common among European American law officers—a fear of African American males.

 

While we appreciate and applaud the efforts of the Philadelphia Mayor and Police Commissioner relative to the need for implicit bias training, what we feel is more important in addition to the training is implicit bias education. All human beings have biases and prejudices, implicit as well as explicit, but the implicit ones are often unknown to them. With education, they have the opportunity to learn why the training is so important for them and all concerned. First, a bias must be discovered, then embraced, and overcome before success can be achieved. Training to overcome an unperceived bias is wasted time and effort. The officers who viewed the ethnic museums must learn that the experience was not entertainment, but lessons that underscore the fact that were are all implicated in the actions of all human beings.

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