Let’s get to the root of racial injustice | Megan Ming Francis | TEDxRainier

Let’s get to the root of racial injustice | Megan Ming Francis | TEDxRainier

Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Amanda Chu I had just finished teaching
Introduction to American Politics to a group of eager undergraduates. This was my first year teaching, but I had pulled off a slamming lecture,
and I was feeling good about myself. As I left the classroom,
I looked down at my phone and saw that I had five missed calls
from my brother Kenny. At the time, Kenny was a student
at Temple University and living in North Philly. For those who don’t know North Philly, it’s an area that is predominantly
black and low-income, with a very visible police presence. When I returned his phone call,
Kenny is loud and swearing into the phone. I can tell that something
very bad happened, but I’m not sure what. When I’m finally able
to get him to calm down, he tells me how he was sitting
on the stoop of his building talking to a friend when four police officers ran up on him and threw him and three
others on the ground, handcuffed them and then
pushed them up against a wall, all the while asking them, “What drugs do you have?
What drugs do you have?” Kenny had no drugs. He told the officers this many times, but each statement of no drugs
only seemed to provoke more force and make the officers more upset. As Kenny sat, cuffed,
and slumped against a brick wall, he quietly told the officers that he was
a student at Temple University and without reason,
they could not hold him. The officers finally retrieved
his college ID, which was in his wallet
that had slipped out when he was slammed to the pavement, realized that he was indeed
in college, without drugs, and then let him go. After Kenny told me this story,
he was still loud and upset. I was shaking, barely able to hold the phone to my ear, all of the joy from my great day
of teaching – gone … and replaced with a deep sense
of helplessness and alarm. I wanted to remove the hurt
and frustration that Kenny felt, that I could hear so clearly
through the phone, but I neither had the will
nor the ability to lie to him about the mightiness of American racism. And we both silently knew
that this would not be the last time that he would be stopped
and frisked by the police for drugs. In an attempt to try to calm him down and to shift attention onto something
that he perhaps did have control over, I had this genius idea and suggested that he focused
his attention on school work to kind of take his mind off of things. He yells into the phone at me,
“What is that going to do? Why should I focus on my school work when the police are allowed
to do things like this?” And then he says to me, “I’m not a student in your class, Megan.
Your books are not going to save me.” I silently nodded
on the other end of the phone, In a lifetime of often heated
exchanges with him, I’ve probably never been more wrong, and he has never been more right. Kenny is not alone. This violent interaction between black men
and women, and police officers plays out in cities and towns
across the United States, often with much more devastating results. According to the most recent statistics, blacks are three times more likely to be
shot and killed by police than whites. The question on everyone’s mind and the question
that I get asked the most is, “How do we solve this problem?” And I confess I cringe at this question, not because it’s not a good question, but because I think we’re asking
the wrong question. I’m not convinced we even understand how we got to this point
in the fist place. Better understanding of the root causes
of the current place where we are will help provide us with the tools
that we need to move us forward. However, I confess that even I sometimes am more eager
to solve a problem than I am to understand it. So a few years ago,
I adopted a corgi from a shelter and named him President Bartlet,
off of The West Wing. (Laughter) Now, he’s super adorable! But he was abused, and he’s very aggressive
whenever he sees another dog. My fix in my first year was to walk him
at crazy hours of the day, but this worked only marginally well, and I was stressed and tired. The following year,
I decided to hire a trainer to try to figure the underlying issues
behind his reactive behavior. On the first day of our meeting,
the trainer looks at me and says, “Fixes that do not address the root causes
of an issue are not really fixes at all.” I realized that in my haste
to fix President Bartlet, I actually had made him worse. The present crisis surrounding race
in the United States, I think, suffers from a lack of attention
to the root causes; Better attention to the root causes, I am convinced, will help us to figure out
how to move past where we right now in terms of the current racial climate
in the United States. So why does the killing
of unarmed blacks to continue to happen? I think it continues to happen because we have the wrong diagnosis
and the wrong cure. And what I mean by this
is we tend to think the problem of racial violence
is isolated to a few stubborn racists that haven’t yet drunk
kind of this progressive Kool-Aid. And we tend to think the cure
to racial injustices in the United States should always revolve around education. In the rest of my talk today,
I’m going to challenge both of these ideas and suggest a new way
to understand the problem, as well as the solution. First, part of the reason
the killing of unarmed blacks continues to happen at an alarming rate is because we haven’t properly addressed our long history of
racial terror in this country, which has treated blackness
as a proxy for criminality, as a substitute for criminality. Instead, when confronted with
kind of these jarring racial injustices, what we like to do is to point
to the bad racist apples. We like to individualize the problem
and situate it away from us. This is why we’re able to make sense
of, let’s say, a Dylann Roof, the shooter in Charlston, South Carolina, who shot up the black church
and had a white-power manifesto. But the problem with
contemporary racial violence is not that we have
a few kind of racist bad apples. The problem is that the whole tree,
the whole apple tree, is infected. The problem is that the presumption
of dangerousness is tightly bound to race for so many in this country. For police officers
to justify the use of deadly force, they have to reasonably believe
that their lives are in danger. In all the high-profile killings
of blacks over the past year, officers attest to feeling under threat. But what does this mean
in the context of unarmed citizens? It means that black skin
triggers a heightened sense of threat, a life-threatening sense of threat, that then influences the officers’
decision to use deadly force. According to the most recent statistics, 33% of blacks that have been killed
by police were unarmed. But it’s not just police
that pop up this myth of black danger. This myth gets reinforced
and takes on a truth-like quality through everyday interaction, when a black man passes
and a woman clutches her purse or when a group
of black friends walk by a car and hear the jarring sound of someone
who has just pushed their automatic locks because they are afraid. And I have friends on both sides of this: black men with great jobs, who just want to be viewed
as a person and not as a threat after a long day of work; and I have really great
white and Asian woman friends, who clutch their purse and walk quickly if they see a black man
on a dimly-lit street, and then feel ashamed in the need
to over-explain their actions to me. And I’ve also been on the receiving end of having who I was reduced to someone else’s false perception
of how much of a danger I posed. Last year, I was coming back from a trip,
and I was singled out by the TSA agent. I thought that I had left a water bottle,
like I often do, in my bag. But he ushered me to a separate area, and then two more TSA agents
surrounded me, and I knew in my gut
that something bad was about to go down. The lead TSA agent
proceeds to ask – no, accuse – me of bringing a weapon into the airport. When I insisted that I did not bring
a weapon into the airport, he produces a piece of costume jewelry, a double ring that I had picked up
for $4 on vacation. It was like his “gotcha” moment,
and it was my superconfused moment. (Laughter) He then accuses me of bringing
brass knuckles, a deadly weapon, into a United States airport. I was almost at a loss of words,
which is rare for someone like me, but I politely pointed out to him that the ring was plastic,
it wasn’t brass, and these weren’t knuckles, it was just a ring that went
over two fingers instead of one finger. But have you ever talked to someone
and felt like you didn’t exist, like when they spoke to you,
they spoke right through you? Well, that’s how I felt. He got more angry at my explanations,
looked me in my face, and said, “You people always lie. I know that this is a weapon, and I’m not going to let someone
dangerous like you board a plane today.” Well, I started to shake, right? Because we’ve all seen this movie
about the brown girl who walks into the airport
with a deadly weapon, and it never really ends well for her. It doesn’t. It never does. So, I had to do what I hate doing, and I used my credentials
to get me out of a bad situation. I told him that I was a professor of Constitutional Law
and American Politics. (Laughter) Right? (Applause) Yeah, so – (Applause) I cited US criminal code,
landmark Supreme Court decisions, and rules from the
Homeland Security Rulebook, because I also teach Civil Liberties. And then he started to get very nervous. (Laughter) He asked what school I worked at. I told him, he Googled my name,
and the blood drained from his face. Right? As he realized I wasn’t making this up, I knew my rights
and I was a college professor. And then, when he looked back at me,
he finally saw me, not as a dangerous threat,
but as a person. After a few more minutes, he let me go,
to catch my much delayed flight, I found a seat in the airport terminal, still trembling with rage
at the way that I had been treated. I was only seated for a few minutes
when I felt a tap on my shoulder. A woman airport worker
said that she saw my whole ordeal, and that he does this all the time
to black passengers, and I was lucky to have been released
from his custody so quickly. But it shouldn’t take
a university website profile to be viewed as non-threatening, right? (Applause) Part of the reason I shared this story
and some of the other ones is that I think, in talking about
the current racial crisis, we tend to focus
all of our attention on police and overlook our own complicity
in creating an environment in which black lives
are not treated as equal. To be clear in thinking about
solutions to the racial violence, I’m in favor of body cameras, I’m in favor of a
non-militarized police force, I’m in favor of stricter laws
that make officers more accountable when they stop and frisk
people on the street. But i’m not convinced that we would need something
like body cameras if we didn’t live in a society that treat blacks
as dangerous and suspicious first, and as citizens second. It’s not just a few bad racist apples
in a police department or at an airport; it’s all of us, who in big ways
through our actions and in small ways by our silences, support this lie – because
that’s what it is, it’s a lie – that somehow black folk
are more dangerous than the rest of us. So not only do I believe
that we’ve misdiagnosed the problem, I also think we have the wrong cure to it. We keep offering up education as a solution to all racial injustices
in the United States. It’s kind of what I call
sometimes in my classes as the “Robitussin of civil rights.” Like, when I was little,
my mom loved Robitussin. She would give me it. I got a cold, Robitussin; flu, Robitussin Like, allergies? Robitussin. Like, where’s the Penadryl? (Laughter) But just like Robitussin is not a cure-all
for all types of sicknesses, education is not a cure-all
for all of America’s racial sins. And yet, education is still
how most Americans understand the responsibility to fixing
contemporary racial injustices. Our measure of how far we have come
in the area of race relations is most often calculated
in how integrated our schools are, how many inovative education experiments
are currently going on, and how many federal dollars
are committed towards education. But the contemporary problem
surrounding the killing of unarmed blacks is not a problem that boils down to providing greater
educational opportunities to blacks. This is a misdiagnosis. A book is not going to stop the bullet
barreling through a gun at Rekia Boyd in Chicago, and longer classroom times
are not going to save Freddie Gray from being illegally stopped
and manhandled by police in Baltimore. This is what I know for sure: that in order to combat
continuing racial injustices today, we must expand our vision
and our responsibility to what civil rights actually means. We must include the battle
against racist violence in our understanding of civil rights. Instead of education, what if we placed freedom
from racist violence at the crux of what it means to be free
and equal in the United States? Doing so does not mean
that we necessarily dislodge education, but it means that if racism
and white supremacy are a rock fortress, we assemble greater arsenal weapons
to break the damn thing down. (Applause) I know this is not an easy task,
but I know that it can be done. So in my real life, I’m a political scientist and a historian, and I’ve spent the last 10 years
focused on a surprising finding: that before the civil rights
group the NAACP focused on its historic campaign
against segregated education, the NAACP spent the first two decades
of the 20th century focused on fighting escalating levels
of racial violence that blacks endured as a result of the actions from police,
politicians, and private white citizens in the south and in the north. In order to wage this big campaign
against racial violence, the NAACP organized
mass demonstrations in the streets. They lobbied Congress
to pass an anti-lynching bill. They litigated and won a landmark decision
in front of the Supreme Court. And they petitioned
three different presidents to make a statement against lynching. It was this massive, extraordinary,
in-your-face campaign that forced America to confront
lynching and mob violence against African Americans. It asked America how strong was its commitment
to protecting black lives. As a result of this work
in early 20th century, the rates of lynching and mob violence
dramatically decreased. I tell this story about the NAACP’s
historic kind of campaign against racial violence because I believe our past history can
light a way out of the present darkness. If we listen to what
this history tells us, then we must struggle
through this current moment. We must confront the ways
that our actions and our institutions lead to a differential treatment
of blacks, even if done unintentionally. Today, people across the United States
are taking to streets and are demanding to be seen, not as dangerous but as people whose lives have value
and deserve protection. Some of these groups are associated
directly, and some indirectly, with the Black Lives Matter movement. Without the efforts of these groups, so many of these killings
of unarmed blacks would have been swapped under the rug, and we would have lost attention long ago. But so many of these activists
have denied the comforts of silence, and they are being active
around this issue. Their message and my message to you today is that we must pay closer attention
to the way that black people are treated. The story of police brutality
and killings of unarmed blacks is not a story about black people. It’s a story about all of us, about racial progress and the stubborn
durability of American racism. It’s about if we will stop making
the mistakes of our past and confront our own complicity
in this great American lie that somehow black people
are more dangerous than others. And finally, it’s about
if we have the courage to take a collective stand
against racial injustice today. This year, nearly half of my students in my race and politics
upper division course participated in a walkout in support
of the Black Lives Matter movement. Halfway through my lecture, I could hear the swelling crowd of students, teachers
and community members in the Quad at the University
of Washington. I smiled to myself as I had a flashback
to the conversation that I had with Kenny, now five years ago. He was right, of course. My books and my silence
will not save these students, but their activism, their courage in challenging
the status quo, and this movement just might. Thanks. (Applause)

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

100 thoughts on “Let’s get to the root of racial injustice | Megan Ming Francis | TEDxRainier

  1. When man ask himself 'why do you want to divide and conquer'? Why tare down what another man had built and take the Land for yourself,why do you want to know what's on the other side of the river

  2. What we are dealing with are spiritual issues all the human solutions have been unsuccessful. It is time to take the all the horrible issues and injustice to our race to the throne of God. Praying in groups and have revivals God will hear our cry. Shame on realious Leaders for not advising our people on the solutions and who can solve them. This requires a heavenly intervention. Pray works.
    Always end your prayers saying in the name of Jesus. God bless all of us that have been suffering and treated unfairly. . God hear our prayers.

  3. My question to her is did she report that security officer for his racial behavior and does he still have his job?

  4. The issue is not with race that's a tag line whites invaded the land that was ours now they are doing everything they can to keep it

  5. ACTUALLY! He saw you as a "different" threat, once he knew your credentials! LOL We all need to subject ourselves to a higher power to solve racism; GOD.

  6. A lot of my friends have been stopped by the police for drugs, because they looked “sketchy”- young men with rucksacks walking alone or in a group, which are the kind of people that get pulled into drug deals, typically. None of them were carrying drugs, and they were all white. I don’t think it’s really a race problem, just a gangs selling drugs problem. Idk, just my opinion

  7. I like how she describes it as a defended fortress. If you have paid attention to our wars, we Americans are very good at picking apart defensive systems and destroying power centers.

  8. Hello, The racists which are white can solve the problem of racism the whites who are not racists know who the racists are so they can solve it in a day. Blacks can only respond to racism and develop a code read Neelly Fuller book – a book for victims of racism.

  9. I hate this country. I don't understand why cops continue to take innocent lives, and still have their jobs and no prison time. Is this really America?

  10. ummmm and i was begining to think i was just crazy when i tell folks raceism is alive and well in los angeles…and the ones that do it are to others the nicest people in the world.even dark skined tell me that as i try explaining why the theripest i nvr even met passes by me in the hallways of the aids clinic would call me niger .ovr and ovr in hollywood,ca.

  11. I took a DNA test and I am 37% African, 36% European, 16% Arabic, and 11% Native American. I am originally from the Dominican Republic. The biggest issue we have in the US is racial divide. Instead of fight police brutality against the people, we only fight for police brutality against blacks. Headlines should read “police officer kills civilian,” race or gender is not important.

  12. I truly enjoyed watching her talk about the racial climate of today. Once white society realize they need to speak out and stop turning their heads from the truth. Stop justifying from wrongness of the White American past.

  13. the only solutions is to separate for your oppressor….asking the socalled white race to not hate and killed brownskin people….is like asking a lion noy yo eat you…..you wouldn't ask a lion not to eat you, you would just stay away from the lion….our people need to wake up,your oppressor is never going to act civil towards you….they never have…..smdh

  14. The justice system is completely broken first thing they need to do is retire all old DEMOCRATIC, REPUBLICAN, SENATOR SUPREME COURT, out with the old in with the new and all of our America need to start hiring more minorities cops the make a age limit and two terms position for all GOVERNMENT position. And a age limit to run for PRESIDENT or run for OFFICE and nobody can run for any OFFICE unless they was born in AMERICA that just the start. It alot more I can tell you about to fix this COUNTRY but I will tell you another time

  15. How do you solve this problem? Stop committing 70% of the crime and stop voting 95% for Democrats who ignore the problem.

  16. Human beings have always been barbaric even if they claim to be civilized. Not so many conflicts have been resolved peacefully. Racism will never end until some group loses their lives on a large scale for this cause. i don't think anyone would like this to happen

  17. The only privelege in the USA is rich privelege. Please stop trying to fire up a race war guys, it won't benefit anyone.

  18. Wow! I know this is way off subject but she looks exactly like my best friend although she doesn't have a great tan and gorgeous curly hair

  19. Certain people can't have a uniform, badge, desk, title, or phone. They turn into Barney Fife! They know they'll get back up especially if you don't know how to keep your calm. If the co-worker knew that they should speak to them and/or their superior. They were just as guilty.

  20. i travel a lot and as far as TSA goes it seems to be mostly overweight minoities, her story seems questionable. Non of this really proves anything.

  21. How about a separation of race?
    It is you blacks that are crying to live in white countries, not the other way around.

  22. The root of injustice is lazy people hiding in group identities and asking for special treatment. Rotten humanities professors who trade academic rigor for postmodern dogma. And internet warriors injecting their outrage into other people's problems and not showing adequate gratitude for what they already have.

  23. The fact that this speach even had to be held tells me how barbaric U.S.- American society is. I´m so glad I´m not even living on this continent.

  24. THE ROOT CAUSE OF RACISM STARTS WITH THE LAWS THAT STARTED THE IDEAS OF STATUS!!!!! If u do nothing there, ur just bumping ur gums

  25. Interesting how so many out there seem so hesitant to admit that when it comes to racism or committing racial attacks it is the blacks by far that are the most guilty.

  26. I used to love TED till I learned the difference between a male and female skeleton. I can’t learn from a man in a girls dress. Big square shoulders, thick neck the swell on those deltoid muscles would never appear on a real womb holding female…
    I am also sick to death with America’s obsession with hue.

  27. THere were certain roots for racism a century ago. Today, there are different causes. Among them, obstinacy among blacks in clinging to ebonic culture, which leads to drugs, crime, sufferyng and perpetual chat about racism.

  28. Meagan, I think what you have said is very empowering to society as a whole. I am a white man that values all life. God in fact made us all, and all in beauty. I would like the chance to have conversation from a white males prospective in today's society. Not from the relic ideal of our unfortunate ancestors. I would hope that you would have zero conceptions of what I may have I mind for discussion. I can promise to leave you enlightened towards a different view, and more hope then ever for mankind. P.S. your pretty hot! Jk, maybe not jk😋

  29. I think its actually quite amazing that in her entire life that one personal story about the TSA is her best example of discrimination. She has such an accomplished career at such a young age many more great things to come from her.

  30. The root of it? Simple. You care more about the end result than you do about the individual incidenta that placed those in the circumstance! You ignore all relevant data, focus on skin color, and a huge amount of confirmation bias.

  31. I hope I don’t sound too crazy for saying this but it is hard to concentrate on what this Lady is saying because she is beautiful. Get some unattractive Women to do these lectures if you want my full attention.😂

  32. You cannot solve the problem The Entity that you are dealing with are called Mason's unless you become one you will be subject to anything they want

  33. Excellent talk and call to action. I live in Seattle area wish I could have attended this! Thank you Megan for being brave and sharing your knowledge.

  34. This Happened Because You And Your Brother Are Israelites And Fit The Curses Of Deuteronomy Chapter 28 . It Is Only Going To Get Worse Because Blacks Hispanics Native Indians Still Refuse To Keep Gods Laws Statutes & Commandments

  35. It happens because you broke the Covenant you agreed to keep in the wilderness with moses so the curses of deuteronomy 28 happened as God Said They Would

  36. Education=conformity. They want blacks to conform via education and if they do not, they use it as proof that they are not worthy of ownership of the economic, political, and social process. I don't agree with everything you have said, but i understand why you have come to your conclusions. I think you are brilliant. Keep up the amazing work.

  37. It's absolutely impossible to make friends with individuals who hated you before you came through the door. The racism and injustice? It will never die. There are too many of you keeping it alive and well.

  38. It’s hard for some people to accept that all African Americans aren’t pistol packing, pants sagging, drug selling gang members. This image is what some see in all people of color. At my work I find that these people are usually just assholes all around and are not the least bit reflective of African Americans as a whole.


  40. Blacks need to change their neighborhoods from crime, illiteracy, poverty, drugs, and killings into quit loving moral clean educated friendly neighborhoods no matter what their income. Then there would be no need for the police.

  41. There are people out there who believe this tripe, without doing any investigation for themselves. And we wonder why there is such a problem in this country…this Marxist revisionism will be our doom.

  42. Racism is a sickness in which is always misdiagnosed. America refuses to treat the root of the problem but yet treat the symptoms. Truth is there's bad in every race.

  43. 4:30 i quote Megan: "I admit that sometimes I just want to solve a problem instead of understand it." Seems to me just what happened on stage. Shaky voice, tragic story to feel sorry for, statistics shown out of context and without further discussion… It all looks like she wants to show that there is a problem that needs to be solved, instead of have a really close look at the roots.

  44. 7:40 how does she even come up with this? No controle group mentioned, no actual study, but if you pause you can see the anger in her face. If you see a stranger in a country where guns are among the general population you always feel under threat if your job is to approach people and often not be the nice guy with them… Megan, please stop it. It is embarrasing how little you understand policing.

  45. Punishment of offending police officers will solve the problem…regardless of “Racial Tear!”

    Stop the excuses…has never and will never work. Racism works because it’s permitted. Stop permitting it and it will cease!

  46. I think it's funny when people specify skin color from one area of the world but then group all whites from most corners of the world with the longest documented history and use that as evidence on why the whites are bad, using thousands of years of history of bad things and then talking about other skin colors using only a few hundred years at most.

  47. "Racial tension is our greatest weapon to deliver america to our cause (of NWO TOTALITARIAN DICTATORSHIP SOCIALISM/COMMUNISM)." Israel Cohen, entered into the Congressional Record.

  48. Better off listening to Candace Owens or Ben Shapiro who use statistics, logic, and fact and do not succumb to the media's race-baiting. This is the problem with know-it-all professors who get too emotional and lose objectivity. I would not want to be a free-thinker in her class. Although, I fully support her right to spew her ignorance, paranoia, and racism… as is provided for her in the first amendment.

  49. We need to get blacks in all neighborhoods either familiar with the laws or pursue careers in law. It should be our new stereotype. The message is that YOU CAN’T MESS WITH US ANY LONGER.

  50. Change perception. Prejudice is pre judging. Change perception first. Change media coverage. Change music. Change movies. Change perception first.

  51. Modern slavery is a brutal reality around the world. The 2016 Global Slavery Index published by the Walk Free Foundation estimates that 45.8 million people are in some form of slavery in 167 countries. 58 percent of people in slavery are living in just five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan. The report estimates that North Korea has the world's highest prevalence of slavery at 4.4 percent of its population, followed by Uzbekistan (4.0 percent) and Cambodia (1.6 percent). Oh wait none of that is important what's really important is Slavery that occurred a hundred years ago.

  52. Thank you so much professor but sharing stories that many of us have experienced and do it changes everyday I hope that you were heard I'm learning to stand up and fight for my Right heating and everyday thank you but speaking for me may God keep you.

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