Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Benefit of the Doubt

The benefit of the doubt. It is a privilege I have received my entire life. Because I'm white. Because I'm middle-class. Because I'm male. I didn't earn it and I took it for granted for most of my life. I assumed, naively, that it was given to everyone.

I've been pulled over by police several times in my life. But I never had guns drawn on me. I was never verbally or physically abused by the police. I was always given the benefit of the doubt. As a teenager I was once caught by police after sneaking into a house by climbing through a window (it was my parent's house: I had lost my key and was locked out). No guns were pointed at me. I wasn't roughed up. I was given the benefit of the doubt.

When a police officer shoots an unarmed black man or brutalizes an unarmed black woman, that officer is also given the benefit of the doubt. They will receive cover from their union and a presumption of innocence and justification for their act. When militarized police in riot gear carrying assault rifles and clubs attack a group of peaceful protestors, they will get the benefit of the doubt; they're just following orders.

I've come to realize that my receiving the benefit of the doubt is grossly unfair when people who's lives matter every bit as much as mine--people like Terence Crutcher and Philando Castile and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland--are given no such benefit. I don't really know what to do about it except to confess it and try to be more aware of it and look for ways to call it out for the injustice that it is. And to listen to what the people who aren't given that benefit of the doubt are saying, and have been saying for a long, long time.



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