Thursday, July 14, 2016

Dallas: How to Heal Racism with Diversity Working, Why Now


Racial diversity means a heterogenous mix of different types of people classified and/or grouped together, and who must live and work together in the same environment.

Just as in a family where each member is unique, each share similarities as well as differences, so it is with the American nation.

America's population has become more and more diverse, and the only path towards a peaceful co-existence is acknowledging, accepting and respecting one another, regardless of race, ethnic background, religious/political views, social and economic status, gender, sexual orientation and identity, among other factors that constitute individual and group differences.

This diversity, when harness well, contributes to the progress and enrichment of the nation; hence it is important that every effort is achieved to keep diversity working in the society.

But diversity scares or turns off many people. Many also ask what is diversity working about?

For many people, it is not enough to tell them that diversity is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual. - See here:

The definition is clear, but hard to get because what many see in the concrete is the opposite.

It makes people feel that diversity divides people more; that exclusion, being left out is more like it than inclusion, because that is the reality they see in most sectors.

One writer notes in her article that it is ironic that with the country's diverse population, lack of diversity describes the state of American society today: we’re not diverse enough.

She also commented that the push for diversity is actually killing it, to wit: this incessant focus on guaranteeing diversity versus focusing on character, talent and ability has the potential to turn the next generation into exactly one of two things: trembling cowards who live in fear of being accused of racism or bigotry; or, actual racists and bigots.

For her and other like-minded individuals, diversity keeps racism alive.

It may seem so because the ugly pangs of racism continues to bite, as shown by incidence of racial profiling targeting mostly African Americans and Hispanics, the rise in hate crimes, police brutality. As in Dallas.

Yet, these are not due to diversity efforts. What breeds racism? It is NOT the promotion of diversity and inclusion.

On the contrary, these are what kills diversity in this country:
- Harboring wrong notions, ignorance, fear about other people;
- Feelings of superiority (white supremacy, for example);
- Ambivalence and indifference towards diversity can unconsciously drive away people from exerting their own effort to understand and appreciate people coming from different background.
- Maltreatment of others due to their background or gender or beliefs. Racial profiling for one.

Racial profiling, as defined by ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), is the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual's race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. […] Examples of racial profiling are the use of race to determine which drivers to stop for minor traffic violations (commonly referred to as "driving while black or brown"), or the use of race to determine which pedestrians to search for illegal contraband.

Dallas

Dallas is hurting. Relationship between its citizens and the police is broken. Candles are lit in the aftermath of the shooting of 5 white cops and a lone gunman, who happened to be a black war veteran.

According to reports, the gunman, identified as Micah Johnson, a black Army veteran, shot the white cops out of retaliation.

Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown said that the shooter's motivation was to make cops pay for their unjust treatment of “people of color.”
We’re convinced that this suspect had other plans and thought that what he was doing was righteous and believed that he was going to target law enforcement — make us pay for what he sees as law enforcement’s efforts to punish people of color,” Brown told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday on “State of the Union.” - See more here

True indeed that cops unfairly treat people of color, racial profiling them even for minor infractions.

The shooting was the kind of retaliatory violence that people have feared through two years of protests around the country against deaths in police custody, forcing yet another wrenching shift in debates over race and criminal justice that had already deeply divided the nation,” a New York Times article said.

Chief Brown also said Johnson himself stated he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers. (CNN).

How to make diversity working in society? Who should be contributing to the promotion of diversity and inclusion in society?

A police job is never easy. It is a noble job – cops risk their lives in order to safeguard communities, to enforce peace and order; they serve as people's protectors. And many die in the line of duty – as when a robber or any armed goon shoot it out with them.

But it is another thing when police themselves perpetrate violence towards the constituents whose safety, dignity and rights they are sworn to protect, especially minorities.

And it is sad that violence begets violence when a member of oppressed groups retaliate in order to exact justice.

This has been a week of profound grief and heartbreak and loss,” Lynch said. Noting that the attack in Dallas happened during a protest sparked by police shootings, she added: “After the events of this week, Americans across our country are feeling a sense of helplessness, uncertainty and fear … but the answer must not be violence.” - See here: 

There are two sides of the same fence, meaning each has their own role to play in building a peaceful, harmonious, civilized society: cops are to protect the citizens and implement laws, and not abuse their authority; citizens are to respect and abide by the laws.

When either side violates the law, justice is rendered through due process.

But the problem comes each side sees the other through the lens of biases and prejudices, and when aggrieved parties take the law into their hands. Is this how diversity working should be at all?

But for whatever reasons, violence indeed is never ever a welcome act.

Violence never wins. Everyone loses – those who commit violence from both sides of the fence, law enforcement and the people.
What about their families, their friends, their communities? The whole nation is hurting, and has become more wounded.

Both sides have their faults, the police and erring citizens. Yet, the police are sworn to uphold the law, and should set good examples. At the same time, good cops are being negated by the abuses of their colleagues; they too are hurt.

Good cops need validation not just from among themselves, but more from the people they serve. There are for sure many cops who serve with dedication, passion and compassion.

As seen in Dallas and in other places, people are not the sole victims of police brutality and violence committed against cops; people's mistaken notion, that diversity divides rather than unites people, is given all the more given credence. They keep asking where is diversity working in our communities?

Police Workforce:

It can never be stressed enough that the more diverse a workplace is, the better it can serve the community it serves.

But a look at the police force in major cities in the U. S. will reveal that there is lack of racial diversity, and this is a crucial factor in the relationship between law enforcers and the cconstituents they are sworn to serve and protect.

According to a report last year based on an analysis a government survey of police departments made in 2007 ( the latest comprehensive study available), the percentage of whites on the force is more than 30 percentage points higher than in the communities they serve.

A breakdown of the racial makeup of the Dallas police department shows it is is more than half white, despite its having mostly Hispanic and black populations, according to the same report.

Baltimore, on the other hand, has a structure that balances the lopsided representation of residents in its police force. The same report says Baltimore’s police department has a lower percentage of blacks than the population it serves. But in contrast to other cities that have been wracked by tension and protests over police confrontations with black men, the city’s mayor, its police commissioner, the state’s attorney are all black.

Detroit police force is now said to be made up of more African Americans than it did in the past. Sixty-one percent of the 2,306-member force is black in a city that's 83 percent African-American. The lag, department officials say, is due in part to a dearth of minority candidates. - See here:

It has also been noted that there has been sincere efforts to make the country's police workforce more diverse and more representative of the communities they serve.

New U.S. government data show that between 1987 and 2013, the percentage of minority police officers in U.S. local law enforcement agencies almost doubled. The Bureau of Justice Statistics(BJS) reported in 2013, racial or ethnic minorities comprised 27 percent of local police officers.
However, studies unreleated to the findings above also show diverse departments don’t equate to improved relations between cops and communities of color. 

How to Heal

Now, how to go from here? The healing process must start painful, difficult it may be.

You cannot heal an open wound by just putting bandage over it; you deep-cleanse it, just as it is with society's wounds inflicted by indifference and ambivalence to diversity and other great issues of the country.

Now no matter how deep the chasm all this has caused, it is time to move on. Time to heal.

Concrete ways to mend the broken relationship between law enforcement and the people can include:
- Increasing racial diversity in the police force to increase their credibility with the communities they serve;
-Owning up to their culpability and responsibility by police departments in cities wracked with bitter, violent confrontations between law enforcers and citizens; no blaming or finger-pointing;
-Improving police credibility through sincere efforts to stop abuse of power and the unnecessary use of force in apprehending unarmed people of color;
-Initiate open dialogue between police and the communities of color in their jurisdiction;
-Open up avenues of communication between law enforcers and citizens for the airing of grievances, from both sides.

We all are humans; all are different and unique, so that makes each one special. Acceptance, respect, compassion. Seeing others through their own lens, so there can be empathy.

According to one observer, what is important is to make people of color – Blacks, Hispanic/Latinos – feel accepted. Diversity conversations need to be about making marginalized individuals/groups feel more appreciated, and made to feel part of the American experience.
Walls need to be torn down, and the broken fence mended, by listening more openly to each other's view(s). And through this, the wise observer says, the ongoing rage, anger , distrust, will dissipate and the need to be always right will stop too. True.

The time to heal is Now. It's high time to let diversity working real hard in our communities. If not today, it may be too late.