As a legal academic, active scholar, and father that writes on issues relating to social justice, focusing particularly on the Latino and Latina community, I am always cautious about condemning another person of color out of concern over promoting factionalism. I was nevertheless compelled to write this open letter after your recent comments on the Fox & Friends program.
While you have since tried to distance yourself from those words — because, as you stated, your son said he was ashamed of you — your deed was already done. Indeed, you stated you would “bet money” that Trayvon Martin wouldn’t have been fatally shot if he had not been wearing a hoodie. If that moment of great lapse in judgment wasn’t enough, you went on to say:
Upon learning of the above, I almost fell out of my chair in disbelief. You attempted to later explain that you were speaking from the perspective of a concerned parent, and “that [your] mission is to save kids’ lives in the real world.” What you failed to realize when you made the comments — and sadly, it did not dawn upon you later when you tried to explain yourself — is that you were buying-into classic stereotypes concerning urban youth, particularly young African-Americans and Latinos.
That beautiful child that was killed was no more a “gangsta,” to use your own language, because he was wearing a hoodie than he was one for being African-American. You did a disservice to all youth by engaging in a classic form of implicit bias, a bias that I have written extensively on because of the actions of those in your profession, and particularly of those on your Fox cable channel (an issue, though related, better left for another day).
In the event you are not aware of the term — hidden bias, or unconscious bias, is a concept that helps explain why discrimination persists, despite polling and other research demonstrating that people oppose it. As a report of the American Values Institute observes, Doctors Anthony Greenwald and M.R. Benaji posited that it was possible that our social behavior was not completely under our conscious control.
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