For African Americans, implicit bias can be deadly. It’s time to address it.
This is a national priority.
It was a watershed moment.
During Monday night’s presidential debate, Hillary was asked if police officers have implicit biases. Her response and acknowledgement confirmed what so many communities of color feel every day: that implicit bias is a “problem for everyone — not just police.”
“I think, unfortunately, too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other, and therefore, I think we need all of us to be asking hard questions about, ‘why am I feeling this way?’” Hillary suggested on stage.
The first female presidential nominee of a major political party addressed an urgent — and often, deeply concealed — issue affecting African Americans in this country: That race still poses a “significant challenge” in the U.S. for many people of color, including in our education and criminal justice systems.
What Hillary spoke about is known all too well to her friend Maria Hamilton, who spoke about this topic at the DNC this year. For Maria, this issue is personal.
In 2014, her son Dontre Hamilton was approached by police officers while sleeping in a Milwaukee park. Dontre was unarmed, but was shot 14 times during the encounter.
“They can’t tell me why my child died that day,” Maria said during a roundtable discussion in North Carolina last week, still frustrated as she recalled the moment she found out her son was dead. She implored those in attendance to demand answers about the black men, women and children who are killed in police incidents and by gun violence in our communities.
“And y’all ain’t mad? Y’all ain’t upset? Ya’ll ain’t felt this yet — welcome to my club.”
The club Maria speaks of is one she never wanted to join — one that no mother wants to belong to. Since losing her son Dontre, she has met countless other mothers who have lost their children to gun violence, or during incidents involving law enforcement.
She, along with Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, and Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, are known as the Mothers of the Movement.
Their children’s deaths have sparked nationwide protests and have raised questions about implicit bias and the excessive use of force.
Those feelings bubbled over last week as tensions grew in Charlotte, North Carolina, following the shooting of 43-year-old Keith Scott, a black man who was killed during a confrontation with police. This comes on the heels of another tragic death: 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, who was unarmed and fatally shot by a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Mothers of the Movement hit the campaign trail together this week to advocate for justice reform and draw attention to reforms we must make to rebuild trust between police officers and communities.
Last year, unarmed black people were killed at four times the rate of unarmed white people, according to data collected by the Guardian.
It’s disturbing figures like these that not only compel the Mothers of the Movement to tell their stories and advocate for reform, but also work to elect Hillary in November. She has made criminal justice reform a bedrock issue in her campaign.
As Hillary has said, we still must face “hard truths” about race in America. One of those hard truths is that implicit bias is very real. We can’t ignore that. And we have to address it.
The matter is complex and we don’t have all the answers, but during last night’s debate, Hillary proposed solutions and has detailed a plan to build trust between police and the communities they serve.
- Hillary has pledged $1 billion to combat implicit bias by finding and funding the best training programs, supporting new research and making this issue a national priority.
- She’s advocating for new investments to support innovative training programs at every level on issues like de-escalation, crisis intervention, community policing and problem solving.
- She’ll bring law enforcement and communities together to develop national guidelines on the use of force by police officers, making it clear when deadly force is warranted and when it isn’t, emphasizing proven methods for de-escalating situations.
Hillary’s plan will build on federal and local reforms that are currently underway.
The Justice Department announced this summer that 33,000 agents would be receiving training aimed at preventing unconscious bias from influencing their law enforcement decisions.
And police departments in Los Angeles, Dallas and Pennsylvania also have or plan to incorporate implicit bias sessions into their existing training exercises. Dallas police even brought in a criminologist to teach staff how implicit biases and stereotyping can affect how police officers treat others.
These reforms at the federal and local level could go a long way to ensure justice and bridge divides.
As Hillary has said, “we must reform our criminal justice system because everyone is safer when there is respect for the law and when everyone is respected by the law.”
Maria, Gwen, Geneva, Sybrina and Lucy are working to make these reforms a reality in the hope of preventing their club from gaining another new member.
Read more about how Hillary will reform the criminal justice system here.
Originally published at www.hillaryclinton.com.