When We Don’t See Obvious Racism
Aug 27, 2010
By Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt
Our nation has a great distance yet to travel on the road to true racial equity. In an article in the Aug. 24, 2010, edition of The Root, law professor Sherrilyn A. Ifill discusses the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to overturn two Alabama juries and find that the use of the term "boy" by a supervisor is not an indicator of discrimination.
The decision was deplorable, and I couldn't agree more with Ifill's assessment that we all lose if the courts or some federal judges can't see racism and disallow jurors from doing so as well.
Decisions like these have tremendous implications for people of color. While we pretend to live in a color-blind society, particularly since the election of an African American president, the reality is that the actions of many in positions of power and influence in America are rooted in unconscious bias ingrained from generations of prejudiced attitudes and perceptions.
America was squarely confronted with this unconscious bias five years ago with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the blatant mistreatment of poor people and people of color. In Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster, Michael Eric Dyson wrote, "The collective racial unconscious, and the rhythms, relations, and rules of race, together constitute the framework for making decisions, even those that apparently have nothing to do with race."
Federal laws and regulations have disparate impact on the poor and people of color. It is time to acknowledge the unconscious bias that exists in our seemingly race-neutral policy-making, and take the time and care needed to consider the impact of each decision on the nation's poor and people of color.