Archive for May, 2014

Ok, so maybe America can’t handle what it does to their….. poor? Or minorities maybe?

May 20, 2014

One of the things that I liked about America, when I was living there, was that it made me more aware of my own tendency to stereotype. The thing was that I saw their stereotypes, and they were different to mine, they shone a light into the dark recesses of how I thought.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We all do it. We just do. It’s a simple shorthand, and while they’re not always accurate, we still use them until we stop and think, at which point we’d probably say “Well I don’t mean it like that….”

My favorite stereotypes in college focused on¬†how diverse the university was (it was diverse, the lecturers were white, the jocks were African American, and the gardeners Hispanic). My favourite “diversity” piece though was the college prospectus. They interviewed foreign, white, and hispanic students, asking them to explain how cool the place was. The problem I had was with the pictures. They had picture after picture of students sitting round “discussing” and “thinking deep thoughts.” In a lot of them it had 3 or 4 white kids looking as if they were teaching the African American kid something. I know it wasn’t meant to be that way. The people who took the picture didn’t mean it to be that way, but if you looked at how they were stood, it looked like they were teaching the African American something. And it was never the other way round. It just never was. That made me laugh, because the Americans never saw it.

Today, I read an article (or more accurately, a book review) about the Duke Lacrosse Rape case in the Wall Street Journal. The book focusses on the former prosecutor in the case, as he tries to defend his actions. The article itself was pretty skewed against the book, which shouldn’t be surprising, given the students were described as innocent, and won damages against the District Attorney who brought the charges against them,

What surprised me was the vehemence against what I saw as a pretty innocuous statement of the obvious on my part. I said something along the lines that the District Attorney¬†tried to use intimidatory tactics (to get a confession) that might work with the urban poor, but which wouldn’t wash against the better off, because they were better educated, and could afford better lawyers.

Well in the last 12 hours I’ve been accused of “Seeing racism everywhere.” Apparently it’s African Americans who are holding themselves back, with their anger against white society, and despite the fact that Americans have a number of laws that disproportionately target minorities (crack vs. powdered cocaine sentences, and the enforcement of the death penalty), I need to get over myself and stop seeing racism everywhere.

This made me laugh. Is America such a “Look out for number One” society, that they can’t see institutionalised racism when it’s slapping them in the face with a wet cod?