Casual Racism

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a brilliant op-ed in the NYTimes from last week about the “good racist people”. He talks about we (modern white America) perceive racism as something that is a characteristic of “the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs”. Yet, there is, in his words “an invisible violence” that goes unremarked (unless of course you are Forest Whitaker or Henry Louis Gates)  that gets excused as a mistake.

I am not African-American, but grew up in an integrated neighborhood, and had friends of color. But, I was fairly oblivious until, when I as an adult, I watched this casual racism (mistakes by “well-meaning people”) and the response of my friends. Thick skin, we haz it. I realize that the expression “conscience  raising” is a hold-over from my salad days. But that is exactly what is needed. There are casual comments by those well meaning people that are racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-religion, anti-atheist, you name it. We all, of every minority and majority, as human beings, need to learn and think.  The racists, etc-ists, are not trolls, gorgons and orcs, they are us, even with the best of intentions.

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2 thoughts on “Casual Racism

  1. Blogger Tamara Winfrey Harris talked about the ‘dull ache’ of casual racism in 2008 in Dear America: A few things this black woman would like you to know about race. But it’s easy for “good people” to dismiss each case as an individual thing. She says, “The sin is not that we are biased in this way–and we are ALL biased. The sin is that we pretend that we aren’t biased and fail to address the inequities that our prejudice creates.”

    Scientific American, again in 2008, had a great article on implicit bias, Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in your Brain. It’s an interesting look at the research on implicit biases with respect to race. Buried in there is something interesting: “Brain research suggests that the people who are best at inhibiting implicit stereotypes are those who are especially skilled at detecting mismatches between their intentions and their actions.” The ‘good people’ Ta-Nehisi Coates is tired of? They don’t see the mismatch.

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