Carpe Diem! Seize the Moment! We are presently at a very critical time in world history. And this is not an exaggeration. As we look at the events that have been taking place, the pandemic of COVID-19 and the response to the death of George Floyd while in police custody, we cannot but see that there is great social and systemic injustice, systemic inequality and systemic racism. While the pandemic has shown that there are certain parts of societies that are falling prey to the disease and are dying, primarily because of social injustice and the deficits in the social determinants of health, the killing of George Floyd also confirms what similar events have confirmed before, that the lives of African-Americans and marginalized communities, appear to be of little value to some in authority. Underlying all of this is a further problem of implicit bias or unconscious bias which seems embedded in society.
A Global Response Has Begun
While worldwide activism has erupted over the senseless and inhumane killing of George Floyd, what is apparent is that this senseless event has been a catalyst for opposition to social injustice in many countries around the world. While policing has been the target, there is something just as sinister underlying this: social and systemic injustice, systemic racism and systemic inequalities. The possible reason that people in so many countries react to this killing of a member from the Black community in the United States, systemic racism, is that they could empathize with what it means to experience social injustice and racism in a marginalized community and what it means to share in a common humanity. A better understanding of implicit bias and measures to erase it would also help to put out the fires of racism.
Systemic Racism, Systemic Injustice, Systemic Inequality
It is also systemic racism that prevents marginalized communities from having access to equal health care as other parts of the society. While some members of marginalized communities are poor, do not have access to the good jobs, proper housing, and other necessities, other members, even if they could afford facilities, simply are not provided with these facilities, particularly if they reside in marginalized communities. The reason, certain facilities are not built and equipped in certain areas. In short, many marginalized communities are not equipped with good and affordable supermarkets, well-equipped hospitals and clinics, and well-run public schools. This systemic racism illustrates the systemic injustice that prevails, that perpetuates the great inequality for marginalized communities, and that has played a major role in the devastation of the African-American, Hispanic, and other marginalized communities with the advent of COVID-19.
Systemic Racism and Implicit Bias in Society
There is much evidence of systemic racism in society. It is not the everyday racism that says one person does not like another because of his or her race. This kind of racism still exists. But it is the taking-for-grantedness, or implicit bias, that many people in society have with respect to members of marginalized groups that is most sinister. There are stereotypes of marginalized groups, and so in interacting with members of these groups, other people use the stereotypes to make decisions as to how to act. It is this implicit bias that nurtures systemic racism. For when we judge members of marginalized communities on the basis of stereotypes, when we make ethnic jokes, and treat people differently because of their race, we fan the fires of racism (Read Respect is Only Human: A Response to Disrespect and Implicit Bias at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1775009483.
Systemic Racism in Policing
The racism that is most harmful is systemic, which runs through different institutions. Such systemic racism is evident in policing, and has been highlighted by the numerous accounts of Black men killed by police in the United States, the most recent case of George Floyd, and by ex-police, as in the recent case of Ahmaud Arbery. Similar reports of police misdeeds have been highlighted and videotaped from around the world. This is a systemic problem that needs immediate solution.
However, Not All Officers are to be Tarnished by Racism
It would be unfair to tarnish all police officers with the same brush of racism. Far from it! We all know police officers who have been diligent in their search for justice and for whom racism is not an option. Yet, fear of the police causes many civilians to distrust police officers, and to treat them suspiciously. However, at the same time, we must condemn those officers who have played ‘fast and loose’ with the law and have targeted innocent people because of implicit bias. While crime must be addressed wherever it occurs, this does not allow for the taking of human life. It is even worse when individuals are targeted and when stereotypes are used to justify their targeting. Solutions must be found to end social injustice, systemic racism, and systemic inequality.
Carpe Diem: Taking Individual and Global Action
Global activism, with the cry of “No Justice, No Peace” and involvement of activist organizations such as Black Lives Matter, are on the forefront calling for change. Two of the most important roles that are being played with this global activism are those of highlighting the problem and educating the public. These roles are being achieved with the global activism evident in marches and protests all over the world, calling for an end to social injustice everywhere.
Individual, Government and Corporate Action
But this problem of social and systemic injustice cannot be handled on an individual basis only, but primarily through action on the part of governments, corporations, and institutions. Individuals can help by voting out governments that are not willing to see social determinants of health as important in policy-making for the health of society. Through their power as consumers, individuals are able to support corporations that are ready to take genuine measures to promote social justice. Institutions that want the support of the public must behave in responsible ways by promoting the wellbeing of society.
Activists and Global Action
Activists need to continue highlighting the problem, particularly that of systemic racism that underlies much of social injustice and systemic inequalities in society, by calling for on individuals to play an important role in holding governments, corporations and institutions accountable. At the same time, individuals must use their power to erase implicit or unconscious bias wherever they see it manifested in their own lives and in the lives of others. Read Respect is Only Human: A Response to Disrespect and Implicit Bias athttps://www.amazon.com/dp/1775009483
Keywords: Respect is Only Human; Implicit Bias; global activism, systemic racism; systemic inequality; systemic injustice; social injustice; Black Lives Matter; No justice No peace; George Floyd; Ahmaud Arbery.