Monthly Racism Faith Witness Update

Welcome to our fourth newsletter exploring various aspects of racism and ways we might combat it. This month, we take on a phenomenon which can be quite challenging because the experience of each person observing or experiencing an event can range widely depending on their life experience. Once again it involves behavior which may be conscious or unconscious.

This is our most challenging subject to-date. What follows is a discussion of four widely publicized confrontations that illustrate interactions between Black men (or youths) and White women. In each case the woman exhibits some form of power or influence in the situation, and there is a presumption of guilt of the Black male. While these are extreme examples, they present an opportunity to consider if and how we might contribute to these patterns in a more subtle way.
The news media captured two events in New York City in the last year, showing interactions quickly escalating into confrontations. Amy Cooper called for police assistance in Central Park after being asked to leash her dog, and Miya Ponsetto physically assaulted a young man in the Arlo Hotel after misplacing her cell phone. Both stories are important examples as we consider the role of racial bias.
Emmett Till was a 14-year-old who in 1955 was brutally beaten and killed for having spoken “inappropriately” to a white woman. This is a foundational narrative for our friends in the Black community and is the backdrop to subsequent examples of undue suspicion and presumption of guilt. Emmett Till’s tragic story is important American history for all of us.
Our final segment tells the story of an off-duty Dallas police officer mistakenly getting off the elevator on the wrong floor of her apartment building and making some deadly assumptions after opening the door of what she thought was her apartment. It’s another tragic story…
As you read the articles above, we invite you to consider how these encounters might have been perceived or ended differently had the actors been of a different race. This is a key approach in assessing whether an interaction has a racial component.

For Peace and Justice,
Carol Galbreath and Bob Dilly
Peace and Justice at Westminster

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