Reflections on Race: 'Take off your colorblind glasses and look at the harm'
Risco Mention-Lewis is deputy police commissioner in Suffolk County. She was the first woman and first African American to hold the position when she was recruited by County Executive Steve Bellone in 2012.
Prior to working in Suffolk, she was a Nassau County assistant district attorney for almost 20 years.
Mention-Lewis discussed how subliminal messages create implicit bias, and how it means people may not realize they are not being inclusive.
"We're always receiving subliminal messages and that create implicit bias in America. And so I say to people, now that you've talked to me, go back and look, you know. It's something so simple as me being in a building with I think 700-800 people, there might be three Black people in the building, you know, and no, no Black people's pictures on the walls. And then I say to a person, I've said to people, you know, lieutenant, friend, different people in the department, now reverse that. Make the building full of all Black people, with no white pictures on the wall. And you walk in, how might you feel? And I spoke to one person and he said I might feel like I'm not wanted. I said now you got it, now you got it."
Mention-Lewis said people need to be aware of the lives and experiences of people of other races and how their words can be damaging.
"In the 60s, we were taught as a culture to be colorblind. But colorblindness does not allow you to see, the different navigation of people in different color skin, that our navigation is different, that our experiences are different, that my experience in the last three years, just walking into a store and being followed, as a deputy police commissioner, is different than my daughter's experience as a prosecutor," says Mention-Lewis. "And being a prosecutor and have someone say I'm one of the token Blacks in the office, and I was damn good at my job, you know and me staying home for three days and crying because I really respected the person who said it, that I heard that he said it to somebody else, I was really hurt by that. And we lose time, we lose time around racists, people of color. We lose time, trying to...recover. We get injured, we get hurt, we recover, we keep going, but it's time that the others know, take off your colorblind glasses and look at the harm, because you can be an ally in the part of the solution."
Mention-Lewis also told News 12 about how she was called the N-word as a child and gave her personal thoughts on the protests as a member of law enforcement, including what she says to officers about what's being said about the police by some of the protesters.
"Policing is a job, it's a uniform, the human below it may not deserve that, and I think we all should consider the humans below the surfaces, all the surfaces, whether it be skin or clothing," says Mention-Lewis.