Updated: Feb 5
February is Black History Month. It is a month in which I would normally celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of black people. Right now, I confess that I don’t feel like celebrating.
I am still in shock of the recent news reports of the beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn.; a beating that resulted in his death three days later. As if the beating was not shocking enough, the videos, including the police officers’ body cams showed that the assailants were black police officers.
When will the violence against black men and women end? Are our lives less precious than others, even to those who share the same skin color?
I know that there are good and bad people of every hue and in every profession, so this is not a blog about black-on-black violence or police brutality. I genuinely want to compel each person to think about what they can do individually to foster respect and equity.
The first thing that I think everyone can and should do is take a look in the mirror. Examine your thoughts and actions, and ask yourself if you have ever made a comment or laughed at a joke at the expense of someone who was different from you?
Next, check your memory bank for biases that have shaped how you think about groups of people. You can even read my guide for uncovering your biases to help you on your personal journey of self-evaluation:
Here’s one simple question to ponder: If you step on the elevator alone and find yourself in the enclosed space with young black teens, do you get nervous or clutch your purse? If you own a business or have the responsibility of hiring staff, do you pay black and Hispanic women less than white women or men for the same job, with similar experience?
According to a United Nations report all women are paid about 20% less than men globally and for people of color the gap in pay is even greater.
I pose these questions to prompt readers to really do a self-examination, because we must be honest with ourselves first before we can try to change the perceptions of other people.
Every person has biases, which are preconceived ideas about groups of people based on their upbringing, the neighborhood they live in, their level of education and yes, the color of their skin.
Once we peel back the layers and figure out where those biases originate, we can debunk them and begin to look at others as human beings to be treated fairly. Then and only then, will we all be judged by the content of our character, instead of the color of our skin.