Yesterday, while being lazy and spending far too much time online, I found the Harvard Project Implicit website. I found the link to it in a blog post attacking White Liberals for their superior attitudes towards blacks. I was tempted to leave a comment suggesting that racism is a two way street and if they didn't believe that, they needed to look at what they were saying. I chose not to leave a comment at all simply because I don't know the author of that post and I don't know what that person has had to deal with. I am, after all, white.
I certainly can't say "I'm not a racist" because I was born and raised in a family that is. I believe wholeheartedly that it's wrong, but overcoming my upbringing isn't always that easy. There was more than one family problem caused by my being seen hugging a black man while standing on the street in broad daylight. The first time I was 18 and didn't handle it well. The second time I was in my 40's, married, and assisting my stepfather run errands. Coming out of the dry cleaners with his clothes, I encountered my friend John Dove. We shared a bit of conversation after which he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. My step father locked me out of the car. He let me open the back seat to put the clothes in and hit the automatic lock button as soon as I closed the door. I had to catch a bus to get home, fortunately we lived in the city way back then.
My Mom tried not to be racist, although she too had the upbringing. I think I'm a little more successful at it because at least I don't go around saying some of my best friends are black. When Mom found out that I got left behind because of a kiss on the cheek from John, she was livid. Frankly, John was a far better person than my step-father was. Of course, my step-father wouldn't have seen it that way since he was white and that made him superior to blacks. Even one who was a scientist, who created the CD ROM technology and held two other patents for something having to do with photonics, I think.
I was 8 years old befoer I ever met a black person in real life. My Dad worked part time for a building contractor. He spent nights until dark and weekends working for no pay on this job. His pay was kept by the contractor as a down payment on the house Dad wanted. Work on finishing our house took place in the winter and as we were getting into spring, the finishing touches were being done on the inside. We spent our Saturdays there while Mom and Dad did things like sand and stain doors, paint walls, etc.
One Saturday just a couple of weeks before we moved in, a man showed up to lay the tile floors in kitchen and bath. His name was Mac, and he was, not only black, but he was the tallest man I'd ever met. Even taller than Grandpa in my 8 year old eyes. He was a minister of a small church and he too worked for the contractor, only he did so during the week since the church couldn't support him and his large family. He was the only adult who didn't treat me as if I should be seen and not heard. He treated me as if I was special in some way. Dad would tell me to leave him alone and he would tell Dad I was fine, and not bothering him at all. I know how to lay tile floors because of what Mac taught me, and I have used that skill now and again.
Knowing how I feel about racism, I honestly thought I'd do much better on the tests than I did. My results on the 2 demo tests I took are that I Moderately prefer Other People over Muslims, and I also Moderately prefer Whites over Blacks. At first I wanted to argue with the scores, but then I got to thinking about what the test scores of Muslims and Blacks would be. I'm pretty sure, given their scope of experience that they wouldn't score any better than I did. What it all means anyways is that there is still more work to be done.
My problems is that work can't be done by myself. It requires honest dialogue and people who are willing to listen to things about themselves that they might not like to hear. I've come a long way from the child whose Dad and Grandad would sit at the table and laugh about siccing the dog on some poor unsuspecting young black child who happened to wander too close to the house. I've learned to stand up and say don't do that when a derogatory term is used to describe someone who is not white. I've also learned enough to fearlessly write a blog post saying that racism exists, and no we white people don't understand, so will you please stop lumping us all together and talk to us as individuals. Who knows? You might find a person of quality underneath my white skin. I may not understand, but I can learn.
Harvard Implicit Project