Interview by Adam Shepard featured on Booksincommon.org
Lisa Bloom author of Suspicion Nation, took time out of her busy schedule to give insight on her book and speaking engagements for Books In Common.
What are some of the “teachable” moments in your book that make it work well for a speaking engagement?
Racial bias: No one thinks she is racist in twenty-first century America, and yet racially disparate outcomes are all around us. Blacks are four times as likely as whites to be arrested and incarcerated for marijuana possession, for example, though the two groups use at the same rates. White men with felony convictions are more like to get the job than black men with clean records, when both have identical resumes. And on and on. How is this possible? The answer: implicit racial bias, the field of study that administers cheat-proof tests for hidden racial bias. It turns out that 80% of whites and 50% of blacks test for moderate or severe racial bias against African Americans. The good news: once we’re aware of our subconscious biases, we can eradicate them.
I cover this topic extensively in my book, Suspicion Nation, because racial profiling was at the heart of the Trayvon Martin case, as it is in so many cases.
Pretending we live in colorblind America, ignoring evidence of racial bias, is not helping us advance. It is holding us back. The “teachable moment” is the mountain of evidence that racial bias still plagues us, but also the fixes that can help us overcome it. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “All we say to America is be true to what you said on paper.”
Would you share some notable experiences you’ve had at speaking events that you’ve participated in?
Very enthusiastic! I’ve been bowled over by hugs from strangers, standing ovations, sold out events, and every time, far more hands up in Q and A sessions than I could answer in the time allotted.
What inspired you to write this story?
I covered the George Zimmerman trial gavel to gavel for NBC News and MSNBC, and as I did, I saw a grave injustice unfolding right before our eyes. I saw a prosecution team that wasn’t arguing its strongest evidence, was putting on unprepared witnesses, and gave such a weak closing argument that both sides seemed to be arguing reasonable doubt, assuring an acquittal. When the case was over, I had to know what happened, what we weren’t seeing on TV. So I did my own investigation, and the results were shocking, and became my book,Suspicion Nation. My conclusion is that the State of Florida bungled the case from beginning to end, but also, that our culture and laws created the perfect storm that allowed this case — and many others like it — to happen.
Many people felt in their gut that the Trayvon Martin case was an injustice. I did too. But a gut feeling wasn’t good enough. I had to get the facts. Once I had them, I had to expose this injustice for what it was. That’s why I wrote the book.
Your latest book, Suspicion Nation, is a very current look at racial injustice. What do you think are some of the more engaging discussion topics, and why?
Why are we so uncomfortable talking about race?
Black America largely feels that white America no longer believes that racism is a problem. Are they right?
What can we do to push forward on this issue and truly become an egalitarian society?
What about gun laws? Stand Your Ground laws? How did they contribute to this case? Are they creating a more dangerous, violent country?