A marker that even if you’re not racist, you are still a product of a society that is.

I recently had a conversation with someone who said that he thought that reports of racism were exaggerated in America. Sure, he said, it happens, but not as often as the media is leading us to believe. He also opined that Obama had missed an opportunity to bring the country together by furthering the idea that prejudice is widespread, instead of telling black people to let the past go and stop being angry.

After I stopped gaping speechlessly at him, I talked to him about one of the markers that we live in a racist society.

As a white male, he thought that he hadn’t experienced racism firsthand. In fact, that’s not true. And it’s probably not true for you either. What he had experienced was making decisions based on the racist baggage that is embedded in American society. The marker that’s easiest to spot is this:

  • That moment when you decide not to do something racist, because racism is bad.

How is that a marker? Let me use the example that this fellow and I discussed.

He said that he goes out of his way to treat blacks and Latinos fairly, and probably treats them better than whites in an effort to not be racist. The fact that he has to think about it is a sign that he’s inherited baggage, at some point in his life, that says that blacks and Latinos are Other.

His counter-argument was that he has to acknowledge that they are visibly different.

The first thing to note is the use of “us” and “them” language. Anytime you break society into lines like this, it’s a marker that people who are not like you are Other, whether the difference is gender, race, sexual orientation, disability… you name it.  While the temptation is to respond that there’s nothing wrong with noting that a person is different from you, what’s telling is when that language comes into use.

For instance: Given the choice of hiring two blondes, one with curly hair and one with straight hair, would you even think about their appearance in relationship to how you treat the candidates? They’re visibly different. At no point would you be likely to think, “Hm… people with curly hair let their hair air dry, so they might be late or come to work with wet hair.”

It’s a visible difference, yes, but not one that causing unconscious Othering reactions.

If I walk in as a redhead, would you think, “I need to be careful not to make any jokes about tempers, so Mary doesn’t think I believe that stereotype about redheads.”

The point is that if you have a moment where you guard against racism, that means that you absorbed the lessons built into our society. Even if you later learned that it was wrong, the imprint is still there. The same way sitting on corduroy will leave an imprint on your skin after you stand up.

If there’s a moment where your lizard brain offers up the racist reaction, “Scary black man walking toward me!” — even if it’s so fast that all you’re aware of is the counter-thrust, “Smile, so he doesn’t think you’re scared of him” — then it is a marker that you’ve inherited some of the racism that’s woven into American society. You’ve since learned that it’s bad, but the imprint is still present. You’ve still been sitting on corduroy.

And here’s the thing… you’re one of the enlightened people, but even you still have that brief inherited reaction. Think about all the people you know who aren’t as smart or as self-aware as you. People who’ve only got the lizard brain reaction. People who cross the street to feel safe, lock the car doors instinctively at the sight of a young man of color, or don’t realize that they only hire people like them.

Racism isn’t over-reported, mostly because it’s so present that people think the markers of it are normal. We haven’t just been sitting on corduroy, we’ve been wrapped in it.

Did you know you can support Mary Robinette on Patreon!

41 thoughts on “A marker that even if you’re not racist, you are still a product of a society that is.”

  1. Please note that I have super-caching turned on, which means that your comment may not appear to you. It will appear to other people.

    Unless I need to send you into the moderation queue.

    1. Nice summary. If you’re reacting to race in any way, then you’re … reacting to race. I think his response might have been related to the way we hide it now. I was listening to a speech by Newt Gingrich once, and he was using all this confusing language with ‘socialist agenda’ and ‘neocolonial perspective’ and … when referring to President Obama. It was very confusing. But when I substituted a racist epithet for the phrases which didn’t fit, it flowed quite naturally. At that point I decided that there’s a lot of ‘code’ racism out there which people don’t recognize as racism.

      1. I think a lot of how both sides of the political spectrum treat each other is identical to how racism operates.

        I say this as an independent conservative who was quite surprised one time to find out that apparently my political and religious beliefs meant that I was oppressive to myself (i.e. female, purebred mutt, low-income, etc.). Needless to say, I dislike the unreason that goes into almost all political discussions.

  2. Thanks so much, Mary. Compared to a lot of other writers I follow, you rarely make statements about divisive issues, so that makes me all the more curious when I see a headline like that. Of course you take a risk by posting something like this, but I am so glad to see you openly acknowledging this problem.

    I think one of the reasons racism has lingered so long in this society is that people are afraid that if they think bad thoughts, it means they are bad people, forever and ever amen. And so they refuse to acknowledge their own bad thoughts, and insist they don’t have them, and so they don’t get addressed, just tucked in some tidy corner of denial.

    Being able to look at oneself and say, “Holy cow, that thing I just thought/said/did was wrong. I ought to be ashamed of myself” — and then -be- ashamed — and then immediately stop hand-wringing and justifying — and instead just apologize, educate yourself, and move on — that’s a rare thing, a hard thing, and a thing we all need to do.

  3. “locking the car doors instinctively” – I do this whenever I get into my car, but I think of this as a marker of having lived in Liverpool for three years, ie having lived in a deprived city rather than a racist atmosphere.

    However – I’m guessing my baggage is at least different from those who grew up in the US rather than my situation of having moved here. and the different attitudes towards race are some of the things that continue to puzzle me.

  4. That’s very well put, Mary. I know that I’ve been imprinted. Both of my parents are lizard brains. I’m just making sure my son doesn’t have parents that are lizard brains.

  5. I was recently pointed at a group of online psychology tests that do a reasonably good job at pointing out those instinctive-brain reactions that we consciously try to override, for a large variety of common biases: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/takeatest.html. (Note that the tests are timed things and require flash.)

    The first one I tried was one for homosexuality, which as it happens is a bias I mostly never got, and the test seemed pretty simplistic and not very meaningful, and it told me I essentially had no bias on the subject and I rather dismissed it.

    Then I tried one for sexism in career/family associations, and … yeah, the test is not actually as simplistic as it seemed, and I was enlightened. I’m not actually feeling brave enough to try the racism test after that.

    1. Back in college, in one of my psych classes, we went through a series of tests similar to these during a section about racial bias and how it can influence us at a subconscious level. The professor warned us ahead of time that we may not like the results.

      It turned out that every single person in the class showed some form of unconscious racial bias, whether or not they were aware of it. For most of the class, it didn’t manifest as the overt racism we think of, but as tendencies, however slight, based on the societal baggage Mary spoke of.

      It gave us a lot to think about, and it really showed us that even though we may not consider ourselves racist at all, we still have years or decades of cultural exposure that constantly influence our decisions, whether we realize it or not.

      We started to think about those moments where we locked our car doors or crossed the street or did any number of little things, and we were ashamed.

      Thank you, Mary, for putting this so eloquently.

    2. I took the test as regards bias for/against homosexuality (which is a bias that society and family tried to install in me, but apparently being both a tomboy and an ice skater * at an impressionable age immunized me there) and I’m not entirely sure about that one. I like my result… I have little to no bias there… but the summary says “laboratory studies show that the social acceptability of negative attitudes toward gays has changed relatively little in recent years”, and this test was made with data from 2002-2006.

      That kind of surprised me. Possibly I’m an outlier for someone of my age and background, or maybe I’ve been to too many gay/lesbian weddings the past 7-10 years, but I thought the social pressure was a little better out there among the average public, as regards at least STFU’ing if they didn’t approve of homosexuality. Maybe not, maybe I’ve just been in California too long, and since I’m not gay, I wouldn’t notice.

      *No, they’re NOT all gay. The straight men are VERY straight indeed and, boy, do they get the ladies.

  6. Robert Scoville

    Opinions and explanations like this one are part of why you’re one of my favorite people. Thanks for such a clear articulation of the whole racism imprint/societal racism thing.

  7. Whoa. This is brilliant. I’ve never seen it put exactly this way.

    You continue to be awesome.

    1. Heh. Good call.

      I think it’s fair to say that I am assuming that the people who most need to read this are white and think of themselves as being not racist. But yeah, the principles of this can apply to any form of Othering.

      1. this sort of imprint absolutely goes both ways. [i get it both ways. i *pass* for white, physically. which is weird in SO MANY WAYS and… yeah]
        the automatic assumption that somone is Othering you happens. i can speak from experience as a Native, anyway. my s/o is the young black man of your example, there, and while he does his best to be oblivious, even he sometimes will turn and say “did i just get pulled over for DWB, or was that legit?” [not literally, that’s only happened twice.]

        this doesn’t help. the stereotypes we have of white people [i’ve met ONE actualy “white” person. her eyes were PINK. can we PLEASE stop color coding like we’re in a giant comic book?!] is that they’re either huge bigots who are mean, or huge bigots who don’t want to be bigots but are too clueless to stop.dude, i KNOW SO MANY AWESOME PEOPLE who fit NEITHER stereotype.
        yet whenever i meet a new person, it’s one of my trains of thought “is this going to be a person who calls me a savage, or the kind of person who speaks “meaningfully” about my supposed special connection to nature?”

        then i smack myself. but it HAPPENS!

      2. Considering that some of the most racist things I’ve heard casually said have been by:

        -A black guy about “A-rabs”
        -A Vietnamese woman about “Mexicans”
        -A Chinese woman about Koreans

        I don’t think that Caucasians are in any way the only ones who need this message.

        1. Fortunately, I didn’t say that Caucasians the only ones who need this message. Try to respond to what I wrote.

          …the principles of this can apply to any form of Othering.

          And…

          Anytime you break society into lines like this, it’s a marker that people who are not like you are Other, whether the difference is gender, race, sexual orientation, disability… you name it.

          Take a minute to step back and ask yourself why you are feeling so defensive. Wait and think before replying, please.

        2. Mary, for some reason there is not a reply window connected to your reply to me, so I will reply here.

          I was, at first, baffled by your reply to me. Then I reread what I’d written and realized that the “sardonic agreement” tone I had in mind when I wrote it had in *no way* translated to what was on the page. Instead, what was meant to be an observation and agreement that Othering is indeed a broad-ranging problem came across as defensive and apologist. “Yeah, you’re right” examples read instead as “see, we’re not so bad!”

          Unfortunate, when I agree with your original post 100%. I work with a lot clients who are of people of color, and I am deeply aware of the fact that I fail regularly at avoiding “othering” in the ways you talk about above – not the big things, the small and subtle ones. I do really well, but in creeps that, “I am treating this person just like I’d treat any other person” thought that, hey, I don’t ever have with Caucasian clients. It frustrates me when my brain goes there.

          I am also regularly aware that I am walking around with privilege that comes so naturally that it is completely invisible to me. The Daily Show had a great segment the other night with two different focus groups, one white and one black, talking about how far we’ve gotten in “solving the race problem.” The white people said 70-90%; the black people put the numbers in the single digits or even negative.

          There is a lot of work left to be done. Sorry I came across so badly.

        3. My bad for not writing it better in the first place! Your reading was completely understandable.

  8. There are many things that are indeed learned. I grew up in Taiwan, where the racial composition of the population is considerably more homogeneous. When I moved to the US at age 16, Caucasians, Latinos, and to some degree, certain Filipinos, all look like “white” people to me. It is over time that I started to learn the difference. So I was reasonably colorblind. (Of course, white people and black people still look very different to me due to the hue of the skin color.) The notions about how black people are more violent or how Asians are nerds are concepts that I was not even aware of. It’s certainly something that wasn’t taught to me by the society until living in the US.

  9. I went to a talk a couple years ago where the presenter was asked how environmental groups (which tend to be almost all “white”) could be made more inclusive. iirc, this was at a book talk, and the book was Sistah Vegan by A. Breeze Harper. She said it’s not a matter of getting more people of color to join up, but rather the most effective thing they could do would be racism awareness among current members.

    There’s also the classic notion that if you’re in a subculture, you know your own culture, and you also know the mainstream culture, but mainstream culture doesn’t have a clue about your life. In some ways, sure, no one knows what it’s like to be another person.

  10. This is something I struggle with, I know. I’m aware that I’m influenced by the latent (and sometimes not-so-latent) racism of our society, no matter that I try not to be. I know there are deep-seated unconscious biases that I try to avoid, but which I know nevertheless will influence me if I’m not careful. I’m terrified of passing on this received prejudice to my own children, and yet I also realize that they’re automatically going to be exposed to so much crap and baggage simply as a result of living in this society.

    I definitely fall into the marker category described above from time to time. I’d like to think, however, that I have a relatively moderate response on the issue: which is to say that I’ve noticed that sometimes I don’t react in the unconsciously racist way. The act of noticing this later on during my interactions with an individual is, I’m sure, another unconscious marker, but I’d like to think it’s a milder one. I’ve also noticed that my reactions tend to be highly situational. In the right setting – say, while at work in the office – I rarely ever even think about this issue except when something I’ve recently read specifically gets my mind thinking about the topic. Being pushed together into a community with many different people seems to be a good way of alleviating the automatic Othering. A strong case for more integration.

    Anyway, my gut reaction on first read was “your friend has it exactly backwards: racism is underreported precisely because it’s become so unconscious and invisible to us, today.”

    1. (I took the IAT test Brooks linked above; I was actually mildly surprised that I came out with “Slight Automatic Preference for Lighter Skinned People” rather than “Moderate”. I do make an effort to be one of the good guys in my day-to-day thinking, but I’m so aware of my own failings and shortcomings that I expected them to be worse…

  11. I disagree on several points.
    1. Recognizing A difference between yourself and someone else – particularly when the visible difference indicates a high probability of a CULTURAL dissimilarity is NOT racist, it is normal.
    It is dissimilarity alone that invokes a natural defense response. That, also, is natural and in no way racist.
    The reason this is natural is because you cannot simply expect the other person to react as you would. The observed dissimilarity has an increased chance that the person will act in a manner you consider irrational or simply unpredictable.
    The implication that natural defense reactions due to dissimilarity is some sign or racism is to force all of humanity to label itself racist for all time. Which, while helpful to those profiting off of racial division, is not good at all for those of us who simply want to live in peace with our fellow man.
    2. The fact that the man in your example has to think about how to think about his interaction with other races is FAR more likely to be the result of constantly being hammered by people telling him he is racist. In the modern age, nothing proclaims ignorance so clearly as racism – and no one wants irrefutable evidence that they are an idiot out there for all to see. (David Duke, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan not withstanding)
    3. Given the crime statistics, it would be irrational for anyone not to view any young man with more suspicion than another person. Add in additional dissimilarity that prevents you from easily reading things like body language and you once again find that reacting defensively is natural.
    4. What you call a “lizard brain” reaction is actually normal human instinct. In a dangerous situation those reactions can literally save your life. (Where do you think the instinct came from?) This notion that such unthinking reactions are a sign of racism is both insulting and dangerous.

    There are further arguments I could make, but this should suffice as a summary.

    1. The bias in favor of whites is a taught response based on the surrounding environment. This isn’t just my opinion, it’s backed up by a lot of scientific study.

      From Dr. Erin M. Winkler’s paper on racism in children

      Although children often attach meaning to race without adults directly telling them to do so, it is important to note that “the biases children exhibit are not random” (Katz & Kofkin, 1997, p. 62). In fact, they often “reflect both subtle and not so subtle messages about the relative desirability of belonging to one social group as opposed to another” (Katz & Kofkin, 1997, p. 62). In other words, children pick up on the ways in which whiteness is normalized and privileged in U.S. society.

      If your theory that we choose “like” individuals as a cultural preference were true, then black children would not have a bias in favor of white children.

      In their study following a group of black and white children over time, Katz and Kofkin (1997) found that all of the children expressed an in-group bias at the age of 30 months. When asked to choose a potential playmate from among photos of unfamiliar white and black boys and girls, all of the children chose a same race playmate. However, by 36 months, “the majority of both black and white children chose white playmates” (p. 59)

      The whole paper is worth a read, actually. http://www4.uwm.edu/letsci/africology/faculty/upload/children_colorblind.pdf

      Your reaction is also a taught response that identifies your opinions with “normal” rather than just being the opinion of an individual. While children are wired to learn things from their surroundings, what we are silently teaching them about race is part of the way our society is constructed. “A 2007 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that 75 percent of white families with kindergartners never, or almost never, talk about race. For black parents the number is reversed with 75 percent addressing race with their children.” (CNN) By refusing to acknowledge that racism exists, or saying that it is normal to experience “natural defense response” because someone looks different, we create a divided culture.

      1. Mary, as someone who has a degree in Behavioral Science, I can’t tell you how many problems there are with the studies that you sight. How many children were in the study? 30 month olds? Seriously? What were the biases of the coordinators who conducted the studies? If you want to argue with behavioral research, consider this:
        “Of particular concern regarding children’s Eurocentric preferences was the implication that children internalized these preferences, subsequently resulting in a poor self-concept and self-hatred. Later research however, consistently documented neither racial preference nor attitude about one’s membership’
        in their racial group was a significant predictor,
        of self-concept.” “Racial Identity development during childhood”(http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewc…)

        You are taking a small study and extrapolating it to fit some racist narrative that doesn’t fit the research. The researchers are misguided in thinking that because Black children choose white children that this somehow reflects on their self worth when study after study shows this isn’t the case. There is nothing wrong with identifying someone as OTHER. Everyone born on this planet is an OTHER because no two people are alike. The problem exists in the BEHAVIOR towards those you identify as OTHER.

        Racism and bigotry are not uniquely American conditions they are HUMAN conditions. Racism and bigotry have existed for centuries in every country in the world.

        Have you been paying attention to how the Coptic Christians are being murdered and attacked in Egypt? Have you been paying attention to the racism of the murderers of Chris Lane? Where is the President condemning this type of violence and bigotry? My point is that certain types of bigotry are ignored by the media and even deemed acceptable because it doesn’t fit into their narrow-minded biases.

        On the other hand, you can let racism and bigotry turn you into a bitter individual who blames others and continues the narrative that all (insert race here) are hateful people who just want to see you fail or you can empower yourself by choosing to believe the best in people and turn the other cheek. As someone who has experienced bigotry, I have a choice. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

        1. No, actually, I’m not taking a small study and extrapolating it to fit a racist narrative. I grabbed one, out of many, because this one had a good bibliography with it. There are more recent studies which examine the learned nature of racism.

          http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/10/new-evidence-that-racism-isnt-natural/263785/
          http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/.premium-1.528187
          http://www.boston.com/jobs/news/articles/2012/06/10/harvard_researcher_says_children_learn_racism_quickly/

          I am surprised with your degree that you aren’t aware of how Other is used when discussing race. Recognizing that someone is different is not the same as being Other. See the blonde example in my post above. The critical point is how we respond to the differences, so yes, we agree on the behavior issue. Where we differ is that I’m attempting to point out is that we live in a society with racism woven into and attempting to pretend that it isn’t there is damagin.

          Here’s a recent study that shows that being smart doesn’t keep people from being racist.
          http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1870408,00.html

      2. I’ve learned that the refusal of white to discuss race in a frank manner with their children is one of the things that perpetuates the problem of latent racism. The children recognize that race is a taboo subject.

        My wife and I were at first appalled when we learned that the teachers at my son’s daycare were discussing issues of race with toddler-age kids. Then my wife looked up the research, and we learned that being upfront about the issues was shown to be a better way of deprogramming (or prevent the programming of) racism. Basically…. children are not stupid: they will notice differences between people. Our brains are wired to do that.

        What’s important, as I understand it, is to teach them that differences are good and to be celebrated, not that they are bad or taboo.

      3. You assigned me homework! Furthermore, I actually did it. Here is what I have found about the research.
        1. Most of the data in that research is nearly 20 years old. Culturally, 20 years is a geological age. We have spent the last 20 years working to eradicate racism like the cancer it is. Shouldn’t we expect progress on that front?
        2. The studies sited in the article fail to control for the most significant variable impacting human development- namely, family integrity. The best predictor of “good” in life is a child being a member of a family consisting of the child’s mother and father who are married. African-American’s have a drastically increased probability of being born into a – well, the only word I can think to describe it is “broken” family unit.
        This brokenness is something children react to on an instinctive level as soon as they realize security is not something they can take for granted. They naturally gravitate toward the more secure or “safe” playmates. It is not racial, it is a child’s natural need for security.
        3. The disparity between races can be entirely explained by the relative breakdown percentages in family structure. If our society truly has the goal of repairing the rift between the races it will bring every tool at its disposal against anything that threatens the relationship between husbands and wives.

        In short, the effect observed in the studies referenced is not the result of racism, rather it is the result of the relative familial breakdowns of the two societies being studied.

        1. Do you have any citations for #2 besides what you’ve heard on the Bill O’Reilly Show? Because I find your assumptions rather offensive and, yes, racist. The idea that little kids will react that something that minutely detailed on an “instinctive” level (‘well, this kid is a member of a racial group more likely to come from a home with two parents, therefore he’s more likely to be a safe playmate) is rather unbelievable to me and is based on several dubious allegations that happen to correspond rather closely with right-wing talking points.

          Also, on number 3, would you care to explain further your ideas for repairing such ills?

        2. Andy–

          I would like to see some study that supports your second point. I certainly have seen no anecdotal evidence of kids preferring playmates who come from your “more secure” families.

          As to your third point, this claim would have to be supported by evidence that children of color who grow up in “traditional, nuclear families” do just as well overall as Caucasian children who grow up in that circumstance, *and* that, conversely, Caucasian children who grow up in “broken” families do just as poorly as children of color who grow up in such families. I think you will be hard-pressed to find evidence of your claim.

  12. I struggle with this. I wish I didn’t. I have worked with people from all races, and you know? People are just people. But I have to *think* about things. I don’t want to offend someone because I’m stupid and don’t ‘get it’.

    A random guy showed up on my doorstep the other day and wanted to borrow a phone to call his wife because his truck had run out of gas. And for a brief second, I wondered if I should be worried. And then got my phone and offered what help I could because he was a person in need. I hate that I have these initial responses to things that I have to overcome, even if they’re only for a fraction of a second. So yes, I have the markers. I wasn’t raised color-blind, but I’m trying to learn how to be. I hope in the end that counts for something.

  13. What I find depressing is that even the people who are most painstakingly aware of not giving offense to other races are still perfectly okay being offensive to other segments in society.

    Quick self-quiz: how many people, upon reading Mary’s remarks about white readers needing to be aware of racism, instantly thought “Yeah, those racist Teabaggers should read this!”

    Guess what? You’re Othering.

  14. Nice description of the problem and “the other” concept. I’ve been trying to explain to people for years that I support people rights and equality, not gay/black/women, etc. Perhaps next time I’ll see the hair color analogy works for me. 🙂

    I almost wish people DID know what a pain naturally curly hair can be! It’s almost like a curse to be both a night owl and have curly hair. *lol*

    Hoping to meet you at WorldCon – I’m a big Writing Excuses fan and was thrilled to see you were attending. 🙂

    1. But apparently I can’t write …
      Perhaps next time I’ll see IF the hair color analogy works for me.

  15. I disagree on several points.
    1. Recognizing A difference between yourself and someone else – particularly when the visible difference indicates a high probability of a CULTURAL dissimilarity is NOT racist, it is normal.
    It is dissimilarity alone that invokes a natural defense response. That, also, is natural and in no way racist.
    The reason this is natural is because you cannot simply expect the other person to react as you would. The observed dissimilarity has an increased chance that the person will act in a manner you consider irrational or simply unpredictable.
    The implication that natural defense reactions due to dissimilarity is some sign or racism is to force all of humanity to label itself racist for all time. Which, while helpful to those profiting off of racial division, is not good at all for those of us who simply want to live in peace with our fellow man.
    2. The fact that the man in your example has to think about how to think about his interaction with other races is FAR more likely to be the result of constantly being hammered by people telling him he is racist. In the modern age, nothing proclaims ignorance so clearly as racism – and no one wants irrefutable evidence that they are an idiot out there for all to see. (David Duke, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan not withstanding)
    3. Given the crime statistics, it would be irrational for anyone not to view any young man with more suspicion than another person. Add in additional dissimilarity that prevents you from easily reading things like body language and you once again find that reacting defensively is natural.
    4. What you call a “lizard brain” reaction is actually normal human instinct. In a dangerous situation those reactions can literally save your life. (Where do you think the instinct came from?) This notion that such unthinking reactions are a sign of racism is both insulting and dangerous.

    There are further arguments I could make, but this should suffice as a summary.

    1. your arguments are missing the point.

      a random white USian has more in common with a random black USian than with, say, a random white Frenchman.
      yet \by what you seem to be saying, random white person is going to see Frenchman and treat the Frenchman as *more like himself* than he would the random black person = because the white USian and the Frenchman both LOOK similar.

      whereas people who were raised in “mixed” enviroments don’t have the problems you seem to think are automatic. my stepniece has been raised with myself and my mom around all the time [Native], my s/o around all the time [black] and my brother in law around almost as much [Mexican]. she, my step-sister and my step-brother-in-law are all white — and she doesn’t have ANY issues dealing with people of various racial backgrounds. because we were always just there, part of her life, never “other”.

      1. That IS my point.
        “Other” is naturally seen as threatening because of the difficulty in instinctually predicting reactions and motivations.
        Just because “other” in your case does not include skin color does not make the natural reaction to “other” any less strong.
        In fact, I would suggest that dress, body language and language differences have more to do with a persons “otherness” than does skin color in modern America.
        “Other” can be defined all kinds of ways, but that doesn’t make the reaction to “other” any less natural.

      2. I’ve encountered Americans of different races overseas, and although our skin colors and backgrounds and hometowns differ widely, it’s always been true that on both sides, we’ll say “Yeah, this place is great, but it’s nice to see another American once in a while!”

        Possibly just because we want someone else to understand our need to be loud and jingoistic, but we like to be with our own.

        “surrounded by foreigners… surrounded by white English-speaking foreigners… hello, large African-American man!” Or, as the case might be, denelian’s multi-racial family if I were to meet them.

        I hope the idea of “our own” expands beyond race and nationality some day, but this is not that day. Maybe eventually we’ll all be bitching about those bastards from Alpha Centauri. “Well, sure they’re hard-working and smart, but do you want your sister to marry one? The kids would be half-green!”

  16. While I understand your point and appreciate it (I am the melting pot of nations and blacks and hispanics claim me on sight with good reason), I disagree as to the source of that artifact. I do agree it exists.

    I grew up with a pale hispanic mother and pale purebred mutt father and honestly believed for most of my childhood that I and my siblings were hispanic and that our parents were white and our grandparents were black. Don’t ask me how that worked because I know perfectly well now the combination would have been impossible. I never realized there was anything different about skin colors vs hair colors until I had blacks and hispanics telling me about how prejudiced people were against “us.” I was floored.

    Now, I’ll admit I grew up in Colorado where women seem to be in the majority almost everywhere I go and there could be some real difference in how us everything-in-us folks are treated, but the fact is if it weren’t for being harped at about racism, I wouldn’t react to make sure people don’t think I’m treating them in a disciminatory fashion. It’s gotten so intense, “This is discimination,” “this is persecution,” that yes, people are starting to be gun-shy around the people groups that make such a big point of it.

    It’s an artifact of a society with prejudice, but it’s largely an artifact of the (often quite justified) backlash, NOT the initial problem. I say this as someone who is supposedly discriminated against and have never had anyone notice my race or gender at all unless it’s to compare our delightful melting pot histories. Now, I’m hypersensitized and it’s not from my personal experience.

    Racism has to be taught. I do wish we would stop teaching it. It goes both ways. My grandmother (the purebred mutt bit) grew up among her large family of black relatives who didn’t want her associating with white trash. Prejudice is wrong, but shoving it in everyone’s face doesn’t make it go away. It makes them like that gentleman who just wants people to stop prolonging it and has to fight people thinking he’s racist when he doesn’t even care.

    I never notice skin color and differently than hair color because my entire life has been spent with the idea that people are people, but I can empathize with him.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top