Friday, October 28, 2016

Ammon Bundy acquittal: reaction

Today, despite hours of video evidence of clear violation of the law, Ammon Bundy and his co-conspirators were found not guilty. This comes as a shock to everyone following the case. In fact, the first article I read had to be edited to say acquitted rather than convicted because the factual (as opposed to legal) guilt of the defendants was apparent. This serves as further evidence, in my opinion, that trial by jury is failing in this country. Unfortunately, I don't know if the alternatives are any better.

My trust in trial by jury was tenuous at best from the time I started paying attention and became skeptical of everything (yay, adolescence). But it was further deteriorated after the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Further hits came from efforts to free those that had been wrongly accused, and findings that juries in the US had a clear racial bias. The reason our jury system is imperfect is that our people are imperfect. But as our culture becomes more diverse, such attitudes are becoming less and less acceptable. However, we also need to be aware of our hidden biases and fight against them.

This is an issue that is affecting us in more and more obvious ways as time moves on and our culture becomes more diverse. I don't know how many times I've heard that by some near year whites will no longer be a majority of the US, but it seems the plan of the 60's and 70's to screw until we're all the same color is starting to have results, if not the exact results that were touted. But this isn't enough.

Because we all have hidden biases and a lot of those biases stem from one very understandable emotion: fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar. This is the root of tribalism. You know the kinds of people you are around most often and are comfortable with them. But the "other", whether they are other because they have a different skin color, a different religion, a different culture, etc., make us uncomfortable because they are different than our norm.

While it is (or at least should be) culturally unacceptable to discriminate against people for these reasons, it is too often easy to get away with subtle discrimination. This is where change is needed. The first step is to recognise it in yourself. So I would like to encourage everyone to be more aware of their own biases (we all have them) and confront them. Make an effort to recognize when your decisions are being informed by racism, sexism, or any other intolerance, and change yourselves. It is not easy, but it gets easier over time. And I will make the same effort, and together we can make this world a better place.

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