#charleskinsey and our racist programming

“Why did you shoot me?”

“I don’t know.”

In case you don’t know, the facts as seen on cell phone camera: Black man. Social worker in the line of duty trying to calm an autistic patient who escaped from a group home and was having a bad episode – patient also happens to be a person of color. Someone calls the cops because the toy train the patient had in his hand looked like a gun they saw a black man in their neighborhood. Police arrive on the scene and Charles Kinsey does every last thing black parents tell their kids in The Talk. He was calm, respectful, he laid on the ground with his hands high in the air and did not move. He was not armed. Complete compliance. And they shot him for it.

After the officer fired on him, the above exchange took place, Kinsey asking, “Why did you shoot me.”

The officer responded, “I don’t know.”

I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know

It’s the most honest, sad, infuriating thing I’ve heard an officer say after one of these shootings. Usually it’s the “You shoulda…” or, “I warned you…” a transference of responsibility for the officer’s actions to the person they shot.

The officer who shot Charles Kinsey, in that heated, soaring, emotional moment when everything is happening quickly and he just shot a man, said, “I don’t know.”

And he’s right, he doesn’t know. Because you can’t know implicit bias. You can’t see or touch hundreds of years of racist programming. It’s the air we breathe. Without quite a lot of work on yourself and unlearning of old habits, you can’t know why your blink instinct is to see black men as dangerous and want to suppress them.

The officer shot Charles Kinsey because he had been programmed to. It’s exactly the problem and exactly what we have to take a hard look at in ourselves. Most of us don’t carry guns around with the authority to use them. But, my dear white people, don’t think for a second that you don’t possess the programming to shoot a black man for no reason. What decisions are you in charge of in your daily life? How many racist micro decisions do you make everyday? How many prejudiced and biased thoughts do you have? Start being aware of yourself, your thoughts, your actions. Hold yourself personally accountable. Constantly check yourself. This is how we can reprogram our racist minds, by doing and thinking a different way. You’re not powerless to change. It’s not a hopeless cause. In fact, you have all the power, and you’re the only one who can change it.

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