As Martin Luther King Day approaches, civil rights protests around the country remind us that there is still work to be done. We often take for granted in this country the fact that all lives matter. But the reality is that this is not the case. Members of some populations, such as black and Latino males, are rendered disposable as a result of our policies.
Historically, we have seen targeted efforts in overt forms, from slavery to lynching. But following the civil rights era, racist policies were driven underground. Policymakers began creating race-based laws whose intent was concealed from view. Policies purposefully attacked or excluded black and Latino people, but did so subtly and indirectly. The result was that the nature of racism became elusive, hidden and largely subconscious, as it continues to be today.
Studies show that black males are subconsciously readily linked with violence and crime. Even exposure to photographs of black men can activate the part of the brain that responds to threat and danger. The resulting deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and 12-year old Tamir Rice demonstrate how these males are marked for death in the minds of many.