By Isaac Butler
Philip Atiba Goff drops some (literal) science about how subconscious processes affect our views of the other:
This results from what we refer to as the "cascade of suspicion," the waves of psychological errors that can warp the perceptions of otherwise reasonable individuals. For instance, in a series of psychological studies, Jennifer Eberhardt, colleagues and I found that merely thinking about crime causes individuals to attend to Black male faces and ignore White ones -- a kind of subconscious racial profiling. Similarly, race can also literally shape what we see when looking at Black men, with research by other researchers demonstrating that both civilians and law enforcement are more likely to "see" weapons in the hands of unarmed Black men than unarmed White men.
In my own recent research, these same biases can cause even otherwise gentle individuals to literally perceive Black children as less than human -- mentally associating them with apes and seeing them as far older than they actually are. Importantly, in each of these bodies of research literature, a bigoted heart is not required to "see" suspicion in Black faces. Just as importantly, these psychological processes affect the vast majority of individuals -- and not just "those people" outside of our social circles. That is, many of us with genuinely non-racist hearts still make these mistakes. Our minds are colored by race -- and there is no running from it. Without knowing the science, every Black parent understands what that means for Black boys: making someone else afraid can be deadly.
RTWT here. I've found I have to force myself to pay attention to the Martin case. Not because it doesn't matter. It matters. A great deal. Rather, I find I have to force myself to pay attention because I find it so unbelievably heartbreaking. And just the same way that Obama thinks about his hypothetical son, I think about my real life older brother, and am thankful that he grew up in a city that's predominantly African American and one with gun laws so strict they were eventually ruled unconstitutional.