Saturday, July 23, 2016

Untidy Thoughts

Why won't they just speak English?  Why don't they have better control of their kids?  Why won't he pull his pants up?  That's not how you say "ask"....

Hardly anyone is explicitly racist anymore - that takes a lot of guts.  But we all have biases, and it is common to treat groups of people differently by engaging in any number of small slights - not affording them the same respect as they would another group in the same position.

It happens quickly, is often reasonably deniable, and difficult to pinpoint or quantify.  When I treat my mother-in-law a little bit differently, say, bristle a bit more at her foibles, my lack of respect towards her is hard to define.  But it is a result of a bias I have, and comes through in my interactions with her.

These are the kind of untidy thoughts we can all fall prey to with any community who has historically been the target of discrimination.  Disreputable narratives develop about them which, we absorb from the larger culture, and that we are often unaware of.  

...Why should people be required to speak English in America?  Maybe they have good reasons for not learning it yet.  Maybe they just weren't talking to you.

...Maybe they are having a bad day. Maybe plenty of white parents let their kids run all over.

...Maybe that's his style - his way of expressing himself through rebellious fashion?  Why do you pull your pants up over your bellybutton?

...Maybe because that's how she pronounces the word ask.  Do you articulate all of your words perfectly?  Do you never say the word "gonna", or "I'm-unna"?

Maybe in each of these examples you are treating them differently because of their race, by not giving them the benefit of the doubt, by jumping to conclusions, and by not having reflected on your own choices.  Maybe you are behaving in a racist way without even knowing it.

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