Implicit Bias

We all have seen the outcomes of police stops involving People of Color, particularly Black males. It is sad, frustrating, and maddening to see it playing out all over the country. Shocking might even be a better word to describe this type of behavior still happening at this time in history!

Today, for the first time, I saw the aftermath of an incident of this nature. Luckily it didn’t end in physical violence. Thank Goodness!

I was at writing group this morning in a Starbucks. When I looked up to see two officers talking to the manager. The manager was describing an incident where apparently a man, presumably Black, was outside the door acting in a threatening manner towards customers. While talking, the manager mentioned the man had left. One of the officers almost laughingly said he had thought a Black man sitting at the front table was the person for whom they had come.

After finishing talking with the manager, who confirmed the man the officer had thought was the man wasn’t, the officer again told his partner he had thought the guy at the table was the guy in question. He said he needed to go apologize to the man. In hearing that, I can only assume he had spoken with the man before talking to the manager.

The officer did do the right thing. He walked over to the man and did apologize. They had a short conversation before the officer apologized a second time. Then the two officers left.

What makes me believe the man was a bit shaken, and I’m making a leap that he was glad it hadn’t gone badly, was what happened next. He had been quietly drinking his coffee. Right after the officer left, the man got up, cleaned up his area, and left very quickly.

I felt glad myself nothing had escalated. I was also surprised to see the officer, who was white, go over and apologize, and said it sincerely.

But why did the event have to happen at all? My thoughts went to the implicit bias of the officer. Why did the officer make an assumption about the man at the table? Why didn’t the officer stand back until the manager had been interviewed since nothing was happening at the time?

When the man left, the officers were talking to a group of customers sitting outside. They were going about their day. I’m pretty sure the officer who had to apologize had already moved on, the apology absolving him of any further action. I do want to give him a benefit if a doubt, and hope he reflected on how he might approach a situation the next time.

I felt for the man when he left. His day was most likely ruined by the incident. I can only imagine his relief and also his anger of being singled out in front of everyone. How does one go about their day after being thought of as a criminal?

Please, can we as a nation, and can our law enforcement officers, please move on from this implicit, and many times, explicit bias? It serves no one and causes trauma for far too many!

My hope is the man was able to let it go, AND that it never happens to him again.

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