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November 21, 2005

21 de novembro

I realized yesterday that I haven’t been using my weblog to record the
kinds of social and political musings I typically weave into my
writing; as of late, I’ve simply been recording my personal trials and
tribulations, which is in itself a useful musing, but I’d like to get
back to the social commentary I’m accustomed to (and am always
contemplating in my mind whether or not it appears on my blog). 

Today, for example, I took note of my own biases when a black Lexus
sped around me through a red light as I slowed to a stop heading north
on Roosevelt Boulevard.  Seconds later, to my delight, the
flashing lights of a police car turned on as a cop peeled out to bust
the law buster himself.  Once the light turned green and I caught
up to the Lexus–now at the side of the road with a policeman at its
driver-side window–I turned my head to see the jerk who thought he
could get away with such reckless behavior; only it wasn’t a he, it was a she,
and a black she at that.  When I saw the primped up woman sitting
in the front seat, I realized that I had been fully expecting to see a
middle-aged white man in a business suit; when I replayed the scenario
for my mom and asked what type of driver she was expecting me to
describe, she said the exact same thing:  a white man in a
business suit.

It’s interesting to me that my mind automatically assumed that
description because I have seen plenty of black men and women driving
high-class cars around the city; plus, as Paul pointed out after I
explained the scenario to him (I didn’t put him to the test, although
now I wish I had), more than half of Philadelphia is black. 

My assumption reveals several potential biases (and perhaps more that I
remain unaware of):  1) rich people are white; 2) business men
drive fancy cars; 3) white business men are asses (and thus would try
to run a red light).  I think my bias lies more in the latter than
the former, for I am inclined to associate the business world with all
sorts of evil-doing and malevolence, such as skirting around
environmental laws and jumping through tax loopholes.  However,
neither of the above statements is necessarily true–in fact, there are
likely more cases than not in which they are false, which is generally
the case with stereotypes.  I’m thankful for this
awareness-raising incident because I generally pride myself on not
assuming anything of anyone–and if anything, assuming the best–so I
prefer to confront my prejudices rather than conceal them.

Next time you find yourself suprised by what somebody turns out to look
like compared to what you expected, take note of it because you’ll
learn a lot about your own biases, which you may not have known you
even had.


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