This piece is part of a series of blogs we will be publishing in the coming weeks written by CASA staff and volunteers on the importance of racial justice, equity, and inclusion. The goal of this series is to highlight the importance of equity, inclusion, and anti-racism education so that we can truly honor the best interests of every child CASA serves.
Here's a bit about the author of the following piece, Michael Webber II:
Michael Webber II is the Program Assistant (PA) at CASA of Travis County and recently celebrated his one-year anniversary in the role. As the PA, he supports the CASA mission by assisting the Early Family Engagement team in distributing information concerning new appointments and providing administrative support to the Program team. The Houston native and St. Edward’s University alum spends his free time studying rap lyrics, reading peer-reviewed articles about Sport Psychology, and watching anime.
The Benefit of the Doubt by Michael Webber II
This spring, the public killing of George Floyd forced society to have conversations about race and policing in the United States. With his hands in his pockets and the help of three colleagues, a white police officer took a knee on George Floyd’s neck and ignored his screams of pain for nearly nine minutes. This terrible loss of Black life was the result of a grocery store clerk reporting a potentially counterfeit bill that George used to complete his purchase. The owner of the grocery store later stated that if the bill was fake, George didn’t know, and usually, officers just confiscate the bill to trace its origin instead of using excessive force. The use of excessive force without appropriate consequences is one outcome of systemic racism—however, society robbing Black people of the benefit of the doubt also played a role in the death of George Floyd and countless other Black Americans.
"The white monopoly of 'the benefit of the doubt' has been a cause of death for Black people for centuries."
The white monopoly of “the benefit of the doubt” has been a cause of death for Black people for centuries. The families of Emmett Till, who was lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman, Trayvon Martin, killed for being Black in a hoodie, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III, killed for playing with toy guns in public, and Sandra Bland, killed because an officer felt disrespected during a traffic stop, never saw justice because the criteria to establish reasonable doubt has historically been different for Black people. Dating back to Reconstruction under Andrew Johnson, institutions in the United States (e.g., criminal justice and education) have created policies that have blocked the advancement of the Black community. I choose to support CASA of Travis County because the organization understands this. CASA is not only dedicated to advocating for abused or neglected children in courts, education, and the community, but they are also dedicated to providing facts about disproportionality in the child welfare system.
Of the children CASA of Travis County served in 2019, 49% were Hispanic/Latino, 28% were Black/African American, and 14% were white. In a county that was 33% Hispanic/Latino, 8% Black/African American, and 48% white, these numbers illustrate a systemic problem with reporting abuse and neglect.
"Of the children CASA of Travis County served in 2019, 49% were Hispanic/Latino, 28% were Black/African American, and 14% were white. In a county that was 33% Hispanic/Latino, 8% Black/African American, and 48% white, these numbers illustrate a systemic problem with reporting abuse and neglect."
How is this possible? Biases, stereotypes, and a lack of cultural understanding about Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) can make reporters assume the worst about families of color. On the flip side, society is conditioned to consider all options before assuming the worst of white people and individuals with power. In other words, they have the benefit of the doubt. Since BIPOC and poor white children do not have the benefit of the doubt in society, it is critical for someone to advocate for them in spaces where their voices might not be heard.
CASA of Travis County has a comprehensive training program designed to teach volunteers and employees how to confront personal biases and how disproportionality affects BIPOC families in courts, education, housing, and other systems in the United States. CASA’s effort to protect marginalized groups within an already vulnerable population, children who were abused or neglected, is necessary in the fight for racial equality and equity in the United States.
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2020 Staff Culture & Diversity Advocacy