Presumed assumption of guilt or why we don’t fart in public

Integrity is an important ethic for all of us to uphold, but it seems as though there are many times when the line is not so clear and people cross it.  Perhaps they see how others seem to get away with it and figure, well if they are doing it, why shouldn’t I?  We see it in the news everyday it seems in Hawaii.  Someone is getting fired because of embezzlement or other criminal acts for which they must think they won’t get caught.  I’m sure for some people, they must figure they have nothing to lose.  Others may get caught up in their own power and think they will never get caught, or as a friend of mine would say, “my shit doesn’t stink.”

But then there are those of us, people of color in public positions with much to lose, who feel as though we need to uphold the highest standards of ethics for fear that those in power assume we aren’t trustworthy or waiting for the opportunity to catch us making a mistake.  Relando Thompkins-Jones writes about a similar notion, the presumed assumption of guilt. The notion is that if something goes wrong, I might be viewed as a suspect in the case.  In other cases, nothing may go wrong, but you are still suspect. Whether it may be happening or not, it is something that we need to be attentive to and, at times, be better than average.  Even when we obtain significant power within our organizations, we may see this as having a bigger target on our backs.  And yes, this is a chronic stressor attributable to race/ethnicity within the dominant culture.

I recall when I was a doctoral student at the University of Washington and we were sitting in a seminar among my colleagues.  In the middle of the lecture, I suddenly smell the scent of a fart.  I recall the notion of who smelt it dealt it, so I first try to ignore it.  But then, I notice there is only one other person sitting near me, an attractive white woman who most would not assume would be the culprit.  I think, damn, everyone will think its me!  So I suddenly start to raise my nose in the air to emulate that I smelled something rank.  I even turn to a friend across the room and signify to my friend that I smell something rotten and that it wasn’t me.  Being a larger native dude, I felt I had to do something or I would be pegged as the nasty farter of the group.  Who knew if anyone smelled it or if they even cared who dealt it, I just didn’t want them to think it was me.  All the while, the woman near me behaved as if nothing was wrong and sat attentive to the lecture.

The take away here is not that I would prefer if I didn’t have to uphold high ethical standards or that public flatulence was acceptable.  But, I do have to be attentive to perceptions of others due to my social identities and the presumed assumption of guilt, whether something is about to go down or not.




Another nice blog from my student!

Puna Aloha

What do you think of Bonilla-Silva and Zuberi’s use of the term “white logic”?  Do you think it is possible to have a discussion about decolonization without a discussion of race or the social constructs of race?

Until I participated in this course, I had never questioned the concept and structure of research and especially had not questioned any underlying bias with regard to western and euro thought processes.  While I knew history was created with many untruths to perpetuate the imperialist attitudes and ideologies, I saw scientific research as fundamentally neutral.  Well I now know that I was wrong and naïve.  That is not to say that I believe every research conducted on indigenous populations lack validity but emphasis should be on interpretation with a critical lens that focus on any suggestion of imperialist thought or connotation.  I more fully understand the concept of white logic and white methods thanks…

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The Power of a Boycott

While quoting Wikipedia is not considered academic, I like their definition of boycott:

boycott is an act of voluntary and intentional abstention from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest, usually for socialpolitical, or environmental reasons. The purpose of a boycott is to inflict some economic loss on the target, or to indicate a moral outrage, to try to compel the target to alter an objectionable behavior.

There are many examples of boycotts leading to massive social change:  the Montgomery bus boycott, the boycott of British goods in India and the great Salt March, the grape boycott of the United Farm Workers, the divestment from business interest in South Africa, as well as a number of consumer-driven boycotts aimed at promoting fair business practices.

Ethical Consumer reports that in 1791, after Parliament refused to abolish slavery, there was a massive boycott of sugar produced by slaves which led to a drop in sales of sugar between a third and a half. “In an early example of fair trade, shops began selling sugar guaranteed to be have been produced by ‘free men’.”

My point here is that we can rant and rave all we want about the problems that plague society, but when we log off our social media sites and go to the store or the mall without consciousness and support the very entities that we purport to be fighting against, they win.  When we succumb to capitalist greed because we want that latest greatest thing at the lowest cost possible, we unconsciously support a system that preys on low and middle income people.  The value menu saves you a buck on a burger, but what are we putting in our bodies.  Excessive packaging can makes products more attractive, but what is it doing to the environment?  We choose chemically-based products and pesticide-ridden and GMO-altered foods, because of cost, convenience, and because everyone else is buying them.  I know, because I make these same decisions on a daily basis, often with a great lack of consciousness myself.

But as Shelly and I were sitting on our balcony sipping our coffee discussing the weight of the world as we normally do every morning, we began thinking we do have the power collectively to make change.  We can use perhaps the most lethal weapon available to us, our dollar.  When consumer spending habits change, businesses respond.  It may cost a little more, but ultimately, if it becomes regular practice, prices may in fact level off.

As an example, Campbell’s has recently launched an organic line of soup.  They state that organic eating is top of the mind year round and that 53% of Americans ages 18-29 are actively trying to include organic foods into their diet.  A 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity CSR study found “Global consumers have high demands for companies to address social and environmental issues, but they now also understand they have an obligation to make change, as well. It’s critical for companies to understand the nuanced drivers, barriers and opportunities that resonate among discerning global audiences.”  Stated more simply, businesses will respond if we put our dollar where our mouth is.  While capitalism may prevail, we have the power collectively to control it.

So, spend with mindfulness, reuse, recycle, walk more, drive less, plant a garden, support local organic farmers & small businesses, remove chemicals from our homes, incorporate essential oils into your life, use sustainable products, and boycott when necessary.  Boycotts can be used on both sides of the aisle as well, as evidence by the recent #boycotthawaii campaign by Trump supporters in response to a Hawaii’s federal judge requesting a restraining order to put a hold on the the revised travel ban.  Such a boycott is aimed at hurting Hawai’i’s tourism economy, its largest single contributor to the state’s gross domestic product.  I personally hope the boycott is successful.  Tourism is not sustainable for the people of Hawaii or our ‘āina.  If successful, this boycott could help us better understand how we can have a more self-sustaining economy that is in line with the many values that the people of Hawai’i hold near and dear to their hearts, mālama ‘āina, mālama honua, aloha, kuleana, and po’okela, to name a few.  So yes, #boycotthawaii!