Racism: Who’s really in control?
by Shayna Rodeman
Just in the last week, I took an Implicit Association Test, which is designed to detect biases people carry about gender, race, and sexuality. Interestingly enough, it is common that nearly everyone carries a bias about race, whether they want to admit it or not.
As you can imagine, most Caucasian people tend to favor other Caucasian people. Some non-white people even carry a bias in favor of Caucasians.
People who fall into the latter category explain this bias by suggesting it is a result of what they see around them.
Look at any advertisement in the United States, and it is almost guaranteed that the face represented on that screen will be a fair-skinned person. It is what we grew up with, so it is what we subconsciously prefer.
Another interesting result was not so much what the test scores indicated, but how people reacted to them.
When an African-American person saw they tended to favor the company of fellow African-American people to Caucasian people, they would generally feel prideful they had maintained their culture and background.
In contrast, if a Caucasian person received the Implicit Association test result that they favored other Caucasian people to the company of African-American people, they would generally feel a level of shame.
Even the most educated and well-rounded Caucasian could easily show preference to other light-skinned people.
So what does this mean? In the case of Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, it was a matter of life or death.
The Implicit Association Test can also address whether a person shows a connection to African-American people and violence or possession of a weapon.
Perhaps it would have been wise for Darren Wilson, a Caucasian police officer, to have taken the test before he shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Brown Aug. 9.
While testimonies differ on exactly what happened that afternoon, it is clear Wilson pulled over his police car, ordering Brown and his friend to move to the sidewalk when events turned physical.
Brown made contact with Wilson while he was in his vehicle when the initial gunfire was heard. At the sound of the gun, Brown distanced himself from the vehicle before turning around and being shot seven or more times.
Accounts vary on whether Brown was going to charge the policeman or put his hands up before Wilson shot.
It is possible Wilson was merely acting on subconscious biases, which begs the question: Was Wilson in control of his racism, or did racism control him?
Certainly, there are some aspects of racism of which we have no control over, but there is something we can control.
There is a theory that the more time you spend around people of a certain race, the more comfortable you feel.
That explains why someone from a small town with little diversity would perhaps have more bias against people of other races than someone who grew up in a larger city with more diversity.
If this is the case, then getting to know people of other races is one of the best ways of getting rid of racism.
The first step we can take to get rid of racism is to admit not only that it exists, but that we carry some racism within ourselves.
Once we realize our biases, we will be able to appropriately take action against them. Be more intentional about the way you treat people of another race.
The next time you are afraid of talking to someone because of the way they look, whether they dress differently, have a different color skin, or speak with a different accent, remind yourself the person you are looking at is just that — a person; they feel the same feelings you feel. They are no different than you. Control of racism starts with you.