Op/Ed: The Perfect Example of Structural Racism
THE DEATH OF TRAYVON MARTIN AND MANY OTHER INDIGNITIES FACED BY BLACK MALES (REGARDLESS OF INCOME AND EDUCATION) RELATED TO THE POLICIES IN THIS COUNTRY
By Diane Bell-McKoy, President, www.ABC-MD.org
(BALTIMORE - April 6, 2012) - The death of Trayvon Martin is an absolute tragedy; our condolences and heartfelt concern goes out to his family and friends.
It is also the time for us to understand the significant impact that structural racism makes in our lives each and every day as people of color. It is the very core that limits the collective economic vitality and the physical health for people of color which then impacts all citizens. It is also the challenge that can cripple America in the future as this country grows increasingly brown.
Structural racism is a significant part of our challenge as a city and state - it is not necessarily about "bad people" but about bad policies and policies that have huge "unintended consequences" based on racialized behavior. I believe Trayvon Martin's death is an example of a "perfect storm" - existence of a law that provides distinct advantages to non people of color and negative unintended consequences to people of color.
Structural racism - a system of societal structures that work interactively to distribute generational and historic advantages to groups of people based on race and that produces cumulative, race-based inequalities. This includes laws and policies with "unintended consequences based on racialized behavior."
A stand-your-ground law is a law that allows a person to use deadly force when threatened without attempting to retreat. In some cases, a person may use deadly force in public areas without a duty to retreat.
A local question to ponder: Have you ever been stopped by the police for a traffic violation and then handcuffed so they could "search the car" or asked if you were doing or had any drugs in your car?
If your answer is no: Then ask any African American males you know if this has been their experience, or if they know of any African American males who have had this experience, regardless of income or educational background. (We acknowledge that there are people who are not of color who have also been profiled and stopped by the police. However, disportionately we know this happens to African American males).
How does structural racism play out in these situations? Unintended consequences of existing laws - that allow one group of people to feel safe and another group of people to feel "targeted".