By Dr. Gail C. Christopher
America’s Wire Writers Group
WASHINGTON, DC - Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights Movement led to a series of laws banning public discrimination. African Americans were no longer barred from certain restaurants, some schools were integrated and fair housing laws created more living options. But today, it’s clear that court rulings and legislation didn’t change the root cause of conscious and unconscious bias – the widespread belief in racial hierarchy still exists.
As a nation, we didn’t understand the power of this belief, this misguided notion that some people are either superior or inferior because of the color of their skin.
This bias manifests in many ways. Unarmed men and women are killed by police and civilians, the justice system seems tilted toward whites, and there remains unequal treatment for children and adults when it comes to health, education, housing and employment. David R. Williams, a sociology professor at Harvard University, cites studies showing that when whites, blacks and Hispanics visited hospital emergency rooms with the same ailment, white patients received pain medication more frequently than people of color.
Does that make the physicians racist?
That may not be the case. With the advancements in neuroscience, we now know much more about the power of the mind. We understand that unconscious beliefs are deeply held, that centuries of this belief system have unconsciously shaped how some of us respond. But now, 21st century technology – YouTube, cell phones, dashboard cameras, body cameras – are leveraged to shape new beliefs about our humanity. They are capturing and exposing vivid samples of people of color abused and dehumanized. We must move beyond the absurd notion that some people have more value than others.