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  • Reverend James Squire

Blink: Other Considerations of Black Lives matter

Updated: Feb 12, 2021


Black Lives Matter is a movement that seeks justice. But there is something else going on that I am surprised hasn’t come up at all. Malcom Gladwell, author of Blink, has done research on what is happening when killing of black men occurs along with racism. Gladwell’s book begins with Amadou Diallo, a black man being shot 41 times by New York policemen in 1999.

If the police were biased and assumed that black men carry guns, that was the start of their reactions. Diallo was not armed and was holding a wallet not a gun. Gladwell studied the case and came up with ways to avoid this injustice. He asked, “What was going on in these officers’ minds to commit this horrible crime?” The police were hyped up with adrenalin which causes the thinking centers of the brain to shut down. It is counter intuitive but one policeman approaching a situation will be more cautious than in a group. They have tried this in Dade County, Florida, and it works.

Scientists have discovered something called “thin slicing” which means that we evaluated people in the first seconds of our experience of them. We have all heard that first impressions are very important. As it turns out they are. When the policer officers were attempting to arrest Diallo, they were trying to hurt him as they lost touch with their other emotional reservoirs of taking care of the suspect. There was also a good bit of “surrogate threat” in their feelings as well. The police have preconceived notions of what and who black mean are.

There is a video where Denzel Washington arrives at the same time when police are attempting to arrest a person who is resisting arrest. This was real life and not a movie and occurred during the Black Lives Matter protests. Washington communicates in many different ways that he wants to help the person and the police back off enough to let him intervene. Washington’s care for this black man is palpable. The black man responds and becomes cooperative and calm. This raises another important question that is raised by the black community. Why is a black person apprehended in the first place? A broken tail light has led to more than one black person man losing his life. Parents of black children are now educating them on the “ways of the current world.”

At this time President Trump has outlawed and refused to fund any diversity training in any public organizations. That is where people learn implicit bias including black people about black people and black people about white people. No one is immune.

There is one other issue that Gladwell addresses in Blink that needs to be mentioned. We are use to seeing a shootout by police and criminals or even in dramas set in the Wild West in the movies or on TV. They present a fictional account regarding how people are affected by shooting another human being. Most people think that police officers are use to firing their guns at a human being. They aren’t. Most police never shoot a person in their entire career. It is an immensely stressful experience particularly when you think that the person has a gun to shoot at you. Police are often traumatized as a result of firing their gun.

Some questions for your consideration. How many deaths of a black man occur when there is just one officer? How many deaths of a black man occur when the black man feels that the police officer has the best interest at heart and communicates that he cares about him?

I believe that, in all the complexity of this issue, that answering those two questions with "not very often" would take us a long way toward social justice.

Recall, when a black man is stopped for a bad taillight. What if the officer knocked on his window and said, “I am stopping you to let you know that you could get in an accident with the taillight out!” would change the context from, “Show me your license. Keep your hands where I can see them.”

A person when using a gun against a person is different from shooting a target. Researchers suggest that people “lose their minds” and their ability to think rationally when firing a gun. The cops and robbers movies on the silver screen are good for movies, but they are not descriptive of real life.

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