Busta’s Person of the Week: Dr. Rashawn Ray is the real deal!

Busta’s Person of the Week: Dr. Rashawn Ray is the real deal!
June 17
15:25 2020

By Busta Brown

My peace of mind was abruptly interrupted by hate and the evils of racism! I’m a type 2 diabetic, so exercising is extremely important to me. Thanks to the stay-at-home order months ago, I decided to treat myself to a bike. Second to being a father and good man to my good woman, riding my bike has become another great escape and peace of mind. Then on one absolutely gorgeous night, I was riding my bike in an area next to the subdivision where my family and I live, listening to one of my favorite Jazz guitarists Earl Klugh. The vibe was like a piece of heaven on earth. Minutes into my ride, a police car drove pass me and then made a U-turn. And in seconds, I was robbed of my peace of mind and my escape from all of the negativity. I no longer felt free. My anxiety kicked into high gear. The police car eventually backed up and drove off. The U-turn wasn’t for me. 

The news of the alleged murder of Ahmaud Aubrey was so fresh, and the wounds that it caused in my heart and mind were fresh as well. Over the past week, there have been several killings of black men by the hands of police officers. So due to my anxiety, I had to take a three-day break from riding my bike. 

I shared my story with Dr. Rashawn Ray during an interview, and his response will help better understand the daily life and thoughts of black men in America. “I think people have to understand what this means. So now you’re not doing as much physical activity and it’s wearing on you mentally, because you’re still talking about it. It’s important for people to understand, even though nothing happened to you during that incident, you’ve had other incidents that didn’t go that way. I know this because I’m a black man and you’re a black.” 

He was 100 percent correct! Two years ago, I was visiting my mother in San Francisco, Calif. She had a cancer scare. But God! One night after visiting my mom, as I was about to get on the highway, I was pulled over by two police officers. One stepped up to my rental car and said, “Your headlights are off; can I see your license and registration?” I was thinking to myself, “See license and registration for what?” But I said nothing and calmly provided them with the documents. They ran my license and then told me I had an unpaid ticket from 1991. 

“Sir, put your hands behind your back.” They didn’t read my Miranda rights. While driving to the police station, the officers decided to engage in some friendly conversation and I obliged them. As they were booking me, the arresting officer looked at me with regret. “I’m so sorry for this, you’re clearly a good guy. This should never have happened.” His supervisor walked by and asked me why was I there and I told him what had happened. “Let me take a look at the arresting officer.” He looked, shook his head in disappointment and said, “A rookie trying to prove a point. You’ll be going home sir. I apologize for his actions,” and then he left. I did leave the police station, but not until that morning. It was a horrible experience. I didn’t mention it to my mom, because she had enough to deal with. 

So Dr. Ray was correct. We continued our conversation and his next comment was spot on for what I was feeling:  “Social interactions with the police don’t necessarily have to be positive; oftentimes we just want them to be neutral. We just want everybody to leave, be safe and alive. So, essentially the research I did, I was really concerned with racial gaps in physical activity, which obviously affects obesity, but also other health outcomes and preexisting health conditions that we know are colliding with the bodies of black people now with COVID-19.” 

Dr. Rashawn Ray is an associate professor of sociology and executive director of LASSR at the University of Maryland, Vlogger, Brookings Institution Rubenstein Fellow. Dr. Ray has been on CNN, MSNBC, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, and Rowland Martin’s Unfiltered. Dr. Ray’s research shows that African Americans are 3.5 times more likely than whites to be killed by the police when they are not attacking nor have a weapon, “… even though African Americans only represent 13% of the population, they represent 42% of individuals that are killed by the police. They were not attacking nor had a weapon at the time when they’re killed. So, we have to reorient the narrative. This is not about someone standing or sitting, this is about that fact that Black Lives Matter. This is about that fact that football players, basketball players, baseball players, once they leave those stadiums, they’re black and brown then. And unfortunately, in our society, it doesn’t matter if you’re affluent or less affluent. Unfortunately, you might be profiled by police and that particular profiling can turn deadly,” Dr. Ray said with calm and grace.

During one of his many researches, he selected neighborhoods across the U.S. that had very racial compositions. “I wanted to know how racial composition influences people engaged in public space. I did interviews, focus groups and a survey with roughly 500 college educated blacks and whites who had professional jobs. And what I found was that place significantly determines how much physical activity people do. The racial composition of a neighborhood decreases or increases the likelihood of engagement in physical activity.” 

He said that in predominately white neighborhoods, white men, white women, and even black women were more likely to engage in physical activity. Black men, on the other hand, were less likely, neighborhoods like the one where Ahmaud Aubrey was allegedly killed. He said, “Part of why black men don’t engage is because we’re suspicious. And part of the suspiciousness is simply skin color. Oftentimes our blackness becomes weaponized. And we become criminalized and we don’t have to have a weapon or attacking. We don’t have to be talking to anyone or moving aggressively for our bodies to be perceived as something that could literally cause harm to someone else.”

What are some of his solutions to decrease police brutality and inequality? For white people to admit that some of these cops who treat them so well and are such good people, treat somebody else like crap. They have to admit that. Also, policy changes. It’s not just about teaching black people; it’s about teaching white people how to shift from being an ally to an advocate. You see, 50% of white people are our allies. They’re the sympathizers. But they don’t know what to do with that sympathy. We need them to sit at those tables and say, I disagree with those certain policies and attitudes. My grandfather taught me a long time ago that your silence is your acceptance. America also needs implicit bias training.” 

Dr. Ray helped train the entire Prince George police department, with nearly 2,000 police officers, 20 other departments across the country, along with some departments in the U.S. military. So, he’s very experienced in that area. He went on to say we must strengthen hate crime charges, so that we get some justice for our people. I asked, what does he say to the people that ask why aren’t blacks protesting against black on black murders? “Two things! We talk about it all the time. The problem is that the media doesn’t always show it. It’s funny we never talk about white on white crime, because crime is interracial, meaning it happens within races more than it happens across races. Nearly 90% of white people are killed by other white people. Why? Because crime is about proximity,” said the dynamic motivational speaker. 

So, when you improve education outcomes, you will improve work outcomes. Jay Z said we’re not selling drugs because we’re fine, we’re doing it because we’re not doing fine.  He suggests that we do less talk and create more options for our underserved African Americans. “Crime will significantly go down. All of us have a role to play,” he said.  

Dr. Rashawn Ray also suggests we download an app called The Countable-Contact Congress. The app helps you keep track of what the federal legislators and Congress are up to. I checked it out and I dig it. 

Dr. Ray is the real deal! If you’d like to contact my Person of the Week, hit him up @Sociologistray on IG, Facebook and Twitter. 

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