Saturday, October 31, 2015

Prejudice, Discrimination, and Police Brutality

While reading about social justice and civil rights, I began to think about all of the recent reports of police officers using excessive force when interacting with African American men and women.  Such as when the school police officer in South Carolina grabbed the student out of her desk and threw her to the floor for not complying with an order to go with the officer.  When I first read this article and saw the video, I was shocked, and I wondered if this would have happened if the student was white and not African American.   There have been many incidents in the past few years that have been similar to this incident in that a white police officer used excessive force when interacting with an African American suspect or person of interest.

I also began to think about how many times people have seen only some of the facts and leaped to some conclusion that has nothing or very little to do with actual events.  In these cases, events can quickly spiral out of control before all of the facts are known.  This was portrayed in a recent episode of CSI: Cyber in which a video of police brutality was taken out of context, modified to make it look like the African American suspect was killed, and released to the public.  These events led to rioting in the town portrayed in this episode.

Something I thought of while reading about the incident in the South Carolina school and after seeing this episode of CSI: Cyber was that maybe incidents like these would not happen as much if people were better able to relate to the victims of prejudice.  An attempt to teach children what discrimination felt like was made by Jane Elliot in her third grade classroom in 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  This was called the brown-eyed and blue-eyed experiment.  In order to demonstrate to her students the effect that discrimination can have on a person, Jane Elliot divided the class by the color of their eyes.  The brown-eyed children were allowed to sit in the front and were told they were better than the blue-eyed children, who had to sit in the back.  She then observed the differences in their behavior.  The following Monday, she switched the groups so that the blue-eyed children were told they were better than the brown-eyed children and observed the changes in their behavior throughout the day.  Although this was a very controversial experiment, the children had had the opportunity to feel what it is like to be discriminated against.
The topic I would like to talk about this week is the misconception of the word “welfare.” When we hear this word, we automatically assume that the people on welfare are those that are lowlifes. What people do not know is that everyone, not just the less fortunate, is actually receiving welfare as well. The textbook definition of welfare is “people contributing to care for others and for themselves. The system exist for two primary reasons: (1) to create a “safety net”… (2) to provide for services that individuals cannot provide.” In a sense, the world revolves around welfare. Therefore, welfare can be universality or selectivity depending on your situation. What bothers me the most is when people say, “all people on welfare are poor and lazy.” What they don’t know is that there are actually many requirements that the participants need in order for them to receive these benefits. For example, they must have a job, or work X amount of hours per week. So these people are working just as many hours as those who are not on welfare, but the reason why they need it is because even though they work long hours they still cannot make ends meet due to their low wages. The people not on welfare will then use the “blaming the victim” approach, and will try and find any reason to blame the individual rather than the society for the inequality in the economy, after all they’re the ones making the people poor in the first place. The problem here is that instead of addressing the big picture--the economy, they are blaming the individuals on welfare themselves for making the economy bad. This is a problem because with this mindset, nothing will ever be resolved; the rich will stay rich and the poor will stay poor. What also bothers me is when everyone believes that these “poor and lazy” people will live on welfare their entire lives and not find a job to improve their life. What people don’t understand are these programs and how they work. For example, the TANF program has a five-year limit, and limited funding.  There are many loops and regulations that need to be met, and not everyone who applies can receive it and everyone has to understand that. It is just mind boggling that some people are so quick to judge, not taking into consideration that everyone is brought up differently. Nobody wants to admit that they are on welfare, but in reality we all are.