I asked the kids how people they meet explain Elmont Memorial High School's high academic achievement, and they said, in one voice, "They think we're cheating." One student said, using words I would have hoped would never be used by a young person, "I feel we have to work harder and do better than other students just to get the same respect, because we're African-American."
The war against racism is not yet won. What links all of these incidents, spanning almost a decade, is that they are manifestations of racial bias. Not necessarily intentional bias, but bias nonetheless: implicit bias. Despite growing awareness of the role of implicit bias, we continue to ignore a critical implicit bias: post-racialism.
The racial and cultural identities of the protagonists have prompted some to criticize Sarah Koenig for not grasping many aspects of this narrative. While I agree with this analysis, I did not think it ultimately compromised Koenig's role as an effective storyteller. That is, until I heard Episode 10.
Decades of segregation and inequality in Ferguson, as well as most American metropolitan areas, have fostered a racial inequality exacerbated by the criminalization of not just poverty, but the criminalization of black and brown bodies. Too many whites are too willing to believe that a black body poses a threat.
The statistically significant racial disparities in school discipline are too large and longstanding to have occurred by chance. School officials are exercising their discretion and imposing disciplinary measures in ways that disadvantage African-American students and severely undermines their access to equal educational opportunities.
In most countries, girls outperform boys in math. However, in the US, boys uniformly best girls. We are joined in the low-performing bottom three by Liechtenstein and Columbia. While we have the greater problem that math and science education in the US seriously lags that of other nations, we must face the fact that that lag is also the product of gender inequities.
Whether Zimmerman did so consciously or unconsciously, it's hard to avoid that race played a part in his decision-making, influencing his thoughts, attitudes and actions toward young, black males. There's a growing body of research documenting just how powerful implicit or unconscious biases can be.