Dominant ideologies, then, have the power to create invisibility in plain sight. Once anything becomes normal, many simply refuse to see what is right their before their eyes.
That problem is grounded in how the marginalized are often positioned with the responsibility to bring that which has been rendered invisible into the light while also being poised to suffer the greatest consequences for that unmasking.
The student stepping back from idealized views of the police in order to acknowledge Baldwin’s criticism is taking a risk in a context that is mostly authoritarian.
A woman scholar taking ethical stances against the powerful current of her field is assuming risk in a context that maintains a false veneer of objectivity and high rigor.
If we are to experience a revolution of recognition, the leverage of those with privilege is essential, to pry away the cloaking in order to see what has been right their in front of our eyes all along.
Whiteness is law, legitimacy, citizenship, the benefit of the doubt. Not-white is doubt. Not-white has to prove, not just once but over and over: 52 traffic stops. Can a white person even imagine? For 52 times Philando Castile had to stop and show his papers, keep his cool, say yes sir, no sir. Had to check the fury that surely rose in him with every stop, every new harassment and humiliation. This remarkable record of self-control should properly be called superhuman. A certain kind of gasbag politician loves to yatter at minorities for their alleged dearths of “personal responsibility,” yet these pols remain blind to a form of strenuous personal responsibility that’s enacted in some fashion several million times a day by people of color in America.
Given the ample evidence of extreme bias in marijuana arrests, there’s no reason to think that the situation is any better in other areas of crime. Indeed, from a statistical standpoint, we should assume there is a bias in all categories. We just can’t know how extreme it is, because we’re missing data, and we don’t know how much data we’re missing.
Worse, when marijuana is legalized, we’ll lose our only indicator of how off-base the available data really are. Overall, decriminalization is probably a good idea, considering how much devastation the policing has caused in black and brown communities. But it will eliminate our most reliable barometer of police racial bias. When the arrests stop, we’ll stop seeing the disparity, but that doesn’t mean bias in other police practices will suddenly end.