Monday, May 14, 2018

Benefit of Doubt? No, Not For Some.

If your neighbor Stanley says to you, "Hey there was a rat on  your front step last night", you would no doubt believe him. Same thing with your co-worker Betty who says "I went for a three mile jog last night". There is no reason not to believe them in these common-place incidents. Why would you? 

Even with the not so common events, you might believe others.  Like if Tom Hanks said, he "saw an unidentified flying object, a UFO", he might be believed. Most likely he would be believed. If Denzel Washington said he "was kidnapped but escaped unharmed" you would believe him. He of course is Denzel. 

There are some we believe and there are some we immediately doubt, don't believe. For instance Annabellas Sciorra says she was raped by Harvey Weinstein. Would anyone believe her?  What about if your neighbour said "The Dingo ate the baby?" 

Why are we quick to believe some and not others? Is it from experience or perception? 

The benefit of doubt is very important. In today's society the benefit of doubt could actually save your life. The benefit of doubt is not awarded to everyone. Black people, People of Color and Women are generally not the first to be believed. It is a reality which has harsh consequences. 

Can you imagine how difficult it must be for a Woman to come forward when she has been assaulted?  With the benefit of doubt is hardly ever give to them? Or how about an Indigenous person filing a complaint about the police officer who has kicked them in the stomach? The Black person who has been punched by a police officer?

These things are happening all the time but the benefit of doubt is not given. Just the other day an off-duty police officer pulled out his gun, loaded it, and pointed at a Hispanic man who had just paid for candy. Even when the store clerk told the off-duty cop the candy was paid for, he still didn't believe, he asked "are you sure?" The default position is not to believe the Person of Color, the Black person or the Woman. 

Society has a default position of believing the police. So when people challenge the police they are not believed. The police get the benefit of doubt. That benefit of doubt is causing great harm in society. To challenge police benefit of doubt can also be dangerous. The Black person, marginalized person and the Woman is often seen as an aggressor, trouble-maker, or a liar.  

"Can I trust you guys?".
"We're the police. Of course you can trust us."

To give someone the benefit of the doubt is to default to the belief that their intentions are honest, and not assume malice when there is uncertainty or doubt surrounding the circumstances. Urban Dictionary. 

How can society give benefit of doubt to others?  What should the default position be?
Of course we can't believe everything and everyone. Still what is it which makes us discount certain segments of society so quickly or not even consider them at all? Lately you can't even sit in a Starbucks, ask for plastic fork in a Waffle House, have a nap in your College/University, touring a potential College, having your car cleaned, shoppping or even go out for a walk with not having benefit of doubt. 

Society's default position is to believe White people. Shocking I know.

So many instances in life that should be mundane, common-place. Funny how being something as mundane as having a nap, having a seat, walking or even reading a book is seen as trouble; so much trouble where you feel the need to call the police. It really is perplexing. What kind of world do you live in where you need to call the police over someone just being? 

In Saskatchewan an Indigenous boy was shot in the head and the man who shot him was not guilty of anything. The story was the bullet didn't fire until way after the trigger was pulled and the gun was accidentally pointed in the boys direction. The benefit of doubt went to the man who shot the youth directly in the head. 

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