Friday, November 11, 2011

Off To The Races

Is racism alive and well in America in the 21st century?  I think most people would say yes.  Obviously it's not doing as well as it was in the mid-20th century and before.  There are many that would point to a black president as the end of widespread racism in America.  And I do think there's some validity to that point.  But there are still underlying currents of it that show themselves every now and then - in the news, at work, with your friends or acquaintances.

Maybe in our very selves.  

Are you a racist?  At least a little bit?  I think it's possible that racism of some degree is as inescapable as cliques and social hierarchies.  If we dig down deep, do we find that there is a natural aversion to anything that is 'other' or different than our selves.  And if so, then it is perpetuated on both sides.  

I wrote a post recently entitled Politically Correct and out of that came comments regarding the 'PC-ness' of using the term 'African-american' instead of 'black'. It's a sensitive subject - on both sides.  Why does it seem that these topics are somewhat 'taboo' in 'mixed' company?  How do we make progress on this important issue?  I think one way is by having open communication, which is what I'm trying to do here.  The problem is, as I mentioned on the PC post, is that I don't think there are any black readers.  So can we truly have a meaningful dialogue with only one race represented?  I invited a black person, whom I've had these types of discussions with in the past, to view and comment on the PC post.  If they viewed it, they didn't comment.  So, how do we do it?  

A problem with racism is that it lumps people into groups.  It takes the individual out of the picture.  If I have predetermined stereotypes about a race, those will reflect onto the individual and 'color' my attitude and actions.  I hate it when someone tries to tell me about how bad a certain person is before I meet them.  The majority of the time I find that I don't have any problems with that individual, as long as I went in with a clean slate and interacted with that person as though I didn't expect there to be an issue.  It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I'm sure that when we enter in to any kind of relationship with someone expecting there to be problems, that's what we'll get.  The other person will pick up on it and begin thinking the exact same kind of negative thoughts about you.  They will then interact with you just like you 'knew' they were going to do.  A recipe for disaster.

What about the issue of profiling?  If Muslims are the main perpetrators of terror, shouldn't the police pay special attention to those 'types' of people?  Is that racist?  I know doctors who have been detained because of their nationality or name.  Is that fair?  According to Wikipedia, 70% of the prison population is non-white.  Does that mean whites are better people, or that the system is biased, or that social and cultural elements have non-whites at a disadvantage?  

The answer you get probably depends on who you ask, and their own personal bias.


  1. Good topic. Well, actually you touched several different topics there.

    Am I racist? Well, I don't want to be. In fact, I try to ignore race altogether. I try to completely erase it from my mind and from my decision-making process. The problem with this, and I acknowledge it as such, is that to some extent, your race is one of a number of factors that shape you into the person you are. So if I completely ignore race...treat it as a non-factor...look right through I missing something? Something that I SHOULD be considering? I think the possibility exists that I am. Problem is, I don't know of a better way to handle it.

    As far as stereotypes are concerned, I think we first need to accept that hey....these stereotypes came from somewhere. In other words, stereotypes are applicable to some people. Sometimes, they are even applicable to many people. The problem with stereotypes is that they are never applicable to ALL people. That's where you can run into trouble with stereotypes. It doesn't matter if 50% of [X people group] likes to eat jelly doughnuts for lunch and listen to opera music in their 4x4 trucks...or 75%...or 95%...because one day you will cross paths with someone of [X people group] who likes a turkey sandwich for lunch and listens to country music in his Prius. And if I make assumptions based on stereotypes, then I will have misjudged that man.

    I've been something of a stereotype-bucker throughout the course of my life, and I've been misjudged a number of times by people who made incorrect assumptions. I know how that feels, and the last thing I want to do is misjudge someone else.

    There are several other topics you touched on in the final paragraph that are worth fleshing out, but I'm going to have to do that at another time.

  2. I didn't know Mason Swinney liked to listen to country music in his Prius :D

    If no one but Rob gets that, that's ok with me ;)

    I'll come back and post something serious on this one (maybe) but reading Steve's comment I just had to make a joke...