Photo by Kerem Yucel
Embarking on a simple online search of a word or a term is always an exercise in subjectivity when it comes to results, often time we are met with hundreds to thousands of similar results while other times you are met with an interesting amalgam of varying results and it’s up to you to choose which fits your need best.
Then there are those times, when no real decision is needed on your part as the general results all align and it makes little difference that which you go with.
Google the word “accountability” and you’ll get an example of the latter, with the primary “respected” dictionary sources sharing a similar definition:
Merriam-Webster defines accountability as “the quality or state of being accountable especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions.”
Cambridge defines it as “the fact of being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactory reason for it, or the degree to which this happens.”
Even Wikipedia, while more wordy is still consistent the above boilerplate definitions.
“In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. As an aspect of governance, it has been central to discussions related to problems in the public sector, nonprofit and private (corporate) and individual contexts. In leadership roles, accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.In governance, accountability has expanded beyond the basic definition of "being called to account for one's actions". It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, e.g. "A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A's (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct". Accountability cannot exist without proper accounting practices; in other words, an absence of accounting means an absence of accountability.”
So here we are. One nation “under god” with a google search of universally accessible information and facts just seconds away. Yet, subjectivity colors what shouldn’t even be in question as “mistakes” and poor choices are made.
As we find ourselves in these times of having to defend what to most seems to be quite clear when it comes to “right vs. wrong”, “morally ethical vs. unethical”, many an American is currently battling within their own internal double-standards as behavior that has no place in present-day becomes the norm in daily headlines and our social news feeds.
As we spend even more time alone with ourselves or in our homes with our families, never has a better time existed to assess where we fall short in our own unspoken commitment to our fellow citizens. In my own echo-chambers a resounding mix of incredulousness, disgust, despair, frustration, sadness, and anger find their way into discourse and first-hand accounts of times when lack of accountability was present.
I don’t want to reduce the importance of recent examples of human behavior at its worst to a simple blog that will in the short-term do nothing to bring back those lost in the cases of the late George Floyd, the late Ahmad Aubery or the over 1,000 others that are known of. However, what I do want to raise awareness of is that we must each hold ourselves responsible for why this still occurs every single day in our communities.
Accountability in each of these instances was initially nowhere to be found, sparking the much-needed dialogue questioning if footage of these incidents not existed would justice even have a chance of being served? More importantly what if the footage was not made available on public platforms, even if it existed without the pressing of the public it seems highly unlikely that those committing crimes would have been properly prosecuted— because the minute these acts were performed our law enforcement became exactly the type of criminals that we as taxpayers employ them to protect us from.
Thankfully and hopefully of at least a little solace for the families of these victims it will be because of this publicly accessible collateral that hopefully those responsible for cutting the lives of their loved ones short will be held accountable, being served with a punishment commensurate with their actions.
Now more than ever, accountability and protection of at-risk demographics have become even more urgent tasks for the everyday citizen of this country, at a time when law enforcement ratings will surely have fallen to an all-time low and as double-standards are glaringly obvious, victims and would-be victims now have to rely on their communities to offer them the protection that they need to just go about their normal everyday business.
While we may not be able to fully eradicate this behavior entirely, we can, collectively as a body politic, shine a glaring light on every example of this unacceptable behavior. We can also speak up for those without a voice to ensure that justice is served in every case. We need to do this to help in present-day, but also for future generations so that in our lifetimes perhaps we can see a major shift in the prejudices many experience on a daily basis.
As much progress as we may make in so many areas and even being in the year 2020, most of us take for granted some of the very real human right violations and racist actions that still take place on a daily basis. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that these actions are not a form of a hate crime and also let us not fool ourselves into thinking that this is only an issue of protest only for groups like Black Lives Matter. For true change to take place it will take intentional action from every single one of us. This is one issue that is 100% black and white and the more we get lost in the gray areas of unaccountability the more nothing changes.
In fact, it was not lost on me as I googled “accountability” in the Cambridge result that this was the example of sentence implementation: “There were furious demands for greater police accountability.”
As solution-oriented as I am, I unfortunately don’t have a one-size-fits-all quick-fix solution for this other “pandemic” of racism and civil liberty violations which deserve as much attention and action as the physical threat of other lethal viruses. All I know is that accountability needs to become a part in our daily lives, and integrated into our daily dialogue. To effect change we must protect those who need it, remain vigilante on their behalf, and also practice empathy in our actions and words. We also need to continue to hold those committing these inhumane acts publicly accountable to serve as examples of right and wrong. Most importantly, we must remember that nothing will change unless we each assume accountability for our own actions, dialogue, and everyday behavior.