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CNN's How to Tell if You're a Racist

Written by: David A. Stempnakowski | Posted on: | Category:

Today I read an article on the CNN web site by John Blake. It was a thought provoking read, and one that is biased in that it is aimed squarely at white people. I'm not sure if that was intentional or not, but from my fifty-five years of life experience I can tell you that no ethic group owns the corner on racism. I encountered enough of it from people of color when I lived in New Orleans.

There were three questions which were posed and which I will post below in their original form with my answers, and then I will post them again with my edits. Here are the original questions. Q: Are you surprised when you meet a Black person whose command of language or speech or writing is of the highest order? A: Yes, but I'm actually surprised when I meet anyone whose command of language or speech or writing is of the highest order.

Q: Do you assume that when you meet a Black person in an athletic competition that he or she will be stronger or faster than you? A: As a fifty-five year old veteran, I assume that anyone I meet at an athletic competition will be stronger or faster than me.

Q: Do you feel anxiety when a group of young Black men walk down the street toward you, or a twinge of fear when a Black man checks your gas meter or does home repairs? A: Honestly, as this question is written I would have to answer no. If the black men are wearing hoodies or look like gang members, then my answer would be yes. Many of the people who have shown up to read my meters or do home repairs have been black and I've never given it a second thought.

So let's change those questions around a bit. Q. Are you surprised when you meet a White person from the deep south whose command of language or speech or writing is of the highest order?

Q. Do you assume that when you meet a White person in an athletic competition that he or she will be weaker or slower than you?

Q. Do you feel anxiety when a group of young White men walk down the street toward you, or when a White man knocks on your door or pulls you over?

My point is that these questions as written are aimed at White people (I'm not sure why we are capitalizing colors here) when all people have it within them to be racist. Being prejudiced, in my opinion, does not make you a racist. It's how you act on those prejudices. For example, would you walk up to a stove with a red burner and place you hand on it to see if it was hot? Probably not because at some point in your life you learned that a red burner on a stove was hot and would burn you. So prejudices are ingrained in human beings and are part of what keep us from doing stupid things and dying. The same reason most people wouldn't walk up to an alligator and try and put a piece of chicken in its mouth. You'd like lose your hand or more. It's how you act on those prejudices that determines if your racist or not, not if you have them.


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