Lovell’s Food For Thought – Perception is Reality to Those Who Perceive It Whether Real or Not

It is not just the criminal justice system that needs fixing

Dr. Lovell Jones | 12/10/2014, 6 a.m.
Perception versus reality, if we think negatively of a group of people, how does it impact our reactions when we ...
Perception versus Reality

Over two decades ago I first wrote an Op Ed piece on the value of a human life. The focus was that in this society we continue to value a human life on a sliding scale with white males at the top and black males at the bottom. Yes, our societal norms have changed over the centuries since the first Africans were brought to the shores of the Americas, but have our values, especially in terms of valuing human life, changed. If you look at what is taking place today, the answer is probably NO. As Dr. Harold Freeman once said, “In our society we see, value, and behave toward one another through a powerful lens of race". I use race or racial classifications and not the color of one's skin because of the exceptions in this country. Whether we admit it or not, we view present day Africans in a different manner than we do African Americans of slave descent. They are higher on the sliding scale. Even those from the Caribbean-Americans of African descent are viewed, in some cases, on a higher scale. Has anyone given any thought to why this is the case. And then there is the paper bag test. While it may not be practiced openly today, in some circles the ideals behind the practice still lingers in the African-American community as a scale of value. For those who do not know what the paper bag test is, just take a grocery store paper bag and hold it up to one’s skin. Those whose skin is lighter than the bag are typically more accepted and valued than those whose skin is darker.

Such judgments and biases might be overt or subconscious, intentional or unintentionally discriminatory, Nevertheless, they perpetuate the legacy of slavery in America by continuing to impact how we view and value each other. I wish that getting rid of this lingering legacy was as simple the suggestions provided by the likes of Charles Barkley or Morgan Freeman or the conservative anchors on cable news outlets - all we just need to do is stop talking about race and racism and it will go away. Unfortunately, this issue is so deeply woven into our societal fabric that just not talking about it will not solve the issue. Nor will marching and demonstrating about the killing of one or two black men by the police bring about change. Think about the hundreds of young black and brown men and children killed over the past few years in our inner cities. We saw the outrage about this problem with massive news coverage and then they went away. This is not to say that it didn’t accomplish anything, but has it led to solutions. I do appreciate all of the attention being brought to the perceived and real bias in the criminal justice system, but again the problem is deeper than just the criminal justice system. It is systemic throughout and occurs in just about every facet of American life - for example, the disparities and racism found in health care access and delivery, education and training systems and immigration. Has anyone given any thought to the possible issue of race and class with regards to Thomas Eric Duncan, the person with Ebola in Dallas? Was his symptoms missed or was he turned away because of the racism found in our health care access and delivery system? Think about this, he was black and had no insurance. We need to answer this question as that decision to release Mr. Duncan because of "symptoms missed" put Dallas as well as Texas and the nation at jeopardy. To solve this issue of perceptions versus realities we need an American solution, not just a black one or brown one or white one.