Dec 14

Eating an Elephant

In Brief— Positive steps that you can take to shrink or eliminate racism and racial bias in American society. Now is the time to act.

*Update on Arthur the Dog—The latest on Arthur can be found at the end of this piece.


The Ugly Elephant in the Room—

No, this piece isn’t about destroying the Republican Party, they’re doing a good job of that by themselves. This is about seizing the moment to deal with the deadly, tragic killings by police of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and all the other unarmed people of color who have died as a result of American police violence over the years. This is the moment to deal with a historic sickness that weakens America.

As readers have discovered, to the occasional distress of some, I have addressed a litany of serious problems in America. These include judicial dysfunction, voting restrictions, attacks on female rights, gun control, the media, political parties and more. These problems are no less important, but we now have the chance to diminish a societal and law enforcement problem that has festered and grown worse in America.

The saying goes that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. That means that an issue needn’t be viewed as a whole but should be approached by attempting to solve one part of the problem at a time. That’s what I am proposing here: we should break the problem into bite-sized pieces and deal with them one at a time until the problem is solved.

Before proceeding, I feel I need to allay the concerns of some readers. As I have said before, this is a problem in other parts of the world as well, and all police officers have an important and hard job to do. However, the majority of readers are Americans and I am addressing this to them in the hope that the country will live up to the claims promised by the founding documents for which so many have fought to defend.

Returning to my point, this is a problem of national proportions. It isn’t just New York, Missouri, Ohio, Texas or California, it is occurring all over the country far too often. Acknowledging that, I am proposing a series of steps to deal realistically with Racial Bias. It may persist despite our best efforts, but the attempt must be made and it must become an ongoing effort by all Americans of good will.

Here are the steps I offer as a path toward alleviating a serious problem.

Bite #1— Look Within. Each of us must look within ourselves to determine if we harbor any racial bias. Although there are vanishingly few of us who have no racial bias, most of us have it to some degree. This takes honesty and a willingness to examine our inner beliefs. Both are critical. Admittedly, there are a few who are consciously racist and proud of it. I am not addressing this to them but to the honest people who sincerely want to diminish or eliminate racism.

Bite #2— Work On Yourself. Assuming that as a human you find you are harboring some degree of racial bias, work on seeing those with darker skin than you have as humans just like yourself but perhaps without the advantages you have. They are fellow humans. Allow yourself to acknowledge that.

Bite #3— Take It With You. Keep in mind the admonition that you must treat others as you would want to be treated. Venture a friendly smile at the black checker in the market or the Hispanic stranger walking toward you in the mall. If the stranger doesn’t return your smile, don’t consider your smile as a challenge but rather as a freely given gift on your part. Those you smile at may think you’re nuts, but they might surprise you by returning your smile.

Bite #4— Go Public. If you’ve never attended a local community or Parent-Teacher meeting, try it out. Ask the speakers about their attitudes toward a police review board or about the kids in your child’s class. You may be surprised at the racial attitudes that get expressed. If the reply is evidence of racial bias, speak up. After all, they can’t kill you and eat you.

If you don’t have the time to attend a meeting, make it a habit to read to your child every day and encourage your child or partner to communicate with you. You can head off racial bias before it becomes a problem. You may feel awkward at first, but it will pay dividends.

Bite #5— Get Political. Attend a political meeting, whether it’s local or national government. Ask relevant questions designed to uncover racial bias. If you don’t have the time, read about your representative’s expressions that touch on racial discrimination. You may be encouraged or you may be shocked. Your vote at the next election may be affected. In short, inform yourself.

Bite #6— Vote! Assuming you have taken the time to inform yourself about racial attitudes, your vote may very well determine which direction the country goes: more tolerant, status quo (that is, things stay as they are) or more racist.

I have just listed some steps you might take in addressing the issue of racism or racial bias. It’s entirely possible I have missed some important steps or you may have additions you believe are appropriate. By all means, let me know what you think. After all, I can’t kill you and eat you.

Right now, America has a serious racial problem that must be dealt with sooner rather than later. It may never change, but we can be a part of the effort to change things. Be an active part of positive change and not part of the problem. Eat that elephant.

  Update on Arthur the Dog—I’m told that the link I provided is no longer active. Therefore, here’s the latest on Arthur:  Arthur remains in Swedish quarantine until March at which time he will join the Lindnord family in northern Sweden. Until his release from quarantine he gets lots of treats and frequent visits from team members. The Peak Performance team will go to New Zealand to compete in February. Meanwhile, Arthur is thriving and getting good care.



    • Linda on December 15, 2014 at 23:42

    Great “bites” for all of us to remember. Small bites add up and can make a difference. The bite about treating everyone as you would like to be treated reminded me of a recent experience of my brother-in-law. He was in Palm Desert where he owns a second home. He spotted a man that looked like his urologist. Indeed it was. He went up to the doctor to say hello. The doctor was cordial but not warm or friendly.

    Months later, my brother-in-law ran into the doctor again in Palm Desert. The doctor apologized to him for his behavior the last time they saw each other saying he thought my brother-in-law was part of the help on staff, but later learned who he was or perhaps I should say, how he made a living. My brother-in-law is African American and a retired judge in private practice.

      • Don Bay on December 16, 2014 at 13:12

      Linda has given a good illustration of the racial bias that hides inside most of us. Based on my own experience at Disneyland many years ago when I reacted automatically to seeing two well-dressed blacks, I would say that most of us who fancy ourselves free of racial bias have it hidden somewhere deep inside. It takes genuine awareness and honesty to recognize it and a real commitment to eliminate it.

      I thought I was free of racial bias by my experience as a child of being “the other.” I was one of very few Anglos in a school that was predominantly Hispanic. Called “Whitey” by my classmates stung, but it inoculated me—I mistakenly thought—to what it is to have a skin color that is different from the majority. But it showed up at Disneyland years later.

      All of us need to work on recognizing the bias within and keep working to eliminate it throughout our lives. It’s skin color that’s most obvious, but it can be religion or dress or beliefs. Whatever shape bias takes, we have to always remember to fight it and treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves.

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