Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Stellar Observation

Yesterday I wrote about race and racism, but I forgot to mention what prompted the essay. I was reading Ta-Nehisi Coates, a blogger at The, and came across a brilliant deconstruction of the show Mad Men, that Ta-Nehisi was able to steer towards the subject of race, and the frustrating, almost futile nature of such a dialogue.

I enjoyed this piece, and while I will disagree with his contention that the world is a less racist place (you can make that contention in regards to the US, but not the world), I think perhaps the most pertinent point he makes is that there really is nobody who is not racist.

They way I've come to see it, anyone who alters their actions towards another as a result of a difference in race, which includes culture and creed, commits an act of racism, and by extension is shown to be a racist. This includes even a small hesitation before speaking, or the minutest pause before interacting.

Even if you are only reacting to the fact that the person is a stranger, or to their economic status, or the fact that they are intoxicated, or whatever other reason, if that person is of a different race/culture/creed, then racist motivations can never be fully discounted.

Can anyone in the world honestly have avoided ever acting in a manner that would fit this description? It's not impossible, but extremely improbable. Sure you might be as entirely at ease shaking hands with Al Sharpton as you would with Bill Gates, but what about someone who, to your mind, looks a lot like Osama Bin Laden? What if it's a Bangladeshi fisherman reeking of fish, with an open sore on their cheek? Would you be comfortable shaking hands then? If not, would the discomfort be entirely based on previous knowledge (the Bin Laden-ish fellow), or a reaction to non-racial physical factors like smell, or the perception of sickness?

Even if your motivations were entirely devoid of race as a factor, you could never prove it, and other people's perception of your motivations would never discount it.

Racism is an inescapable part of the human condition. Perhaps it is a result of evolution? Maybe those who did not react with suspicion and hostility to strangers, to those who were different, quickly found themselves extinct?

Who knows?

No comments:

Post a Comment