Doctor Johnson provided the example of our inherent racism through “barely conscious
reactions,” by giving us a thought experiment the other day in class.
“You are walking and are forced to make a decision between two alleys, one with Cal waiting at the end and an African American man waiting in the other.”
She stated that we, as humans subconsciously biased by racial stereotypes put there by society, are inherently racist; therefore, we will choose to walk toward Cal. Society has indeed succeeded in making me recognize these stereotypes, making certain reactions or thoughts a type of “mental reflex,” but are the reactions based on race or, instead, a culture physically materialized by race?
The answer to the class quarrel of whether we would choose to go down an alley with Cal or an African American man comes down to, in my own mind, “culturalism.,” the affiliation of ideas with a certain culture. I have heard people often describing a Caucasian boy as “black” or an African American as “white” according to their clothes and actions, proving many people of today see “black” or “white” as a culture more than an actual skin pigment. I personally think it is much more complicated than just the color of the man in the alley. Ideally, choosing upon race poses the equivalent of choosing based on hair or eye color. In reality when it comes down to these choices of objective judgment, it should come down to the conscious representations of their ideas and character. Race is not a choice and a ridiculous ground for scaling character. If Cal was dressed up like a gangster with his hat backwards and pants sagging, listening to rap music while the African American man was dressed in a business suit, the choice would then prove race completely irrelevant. I would then walk toward the African American man and ask for directions because these things (clothing, hair, grooming) imply a culture. My morality causes me to have a huge problem with “hip-hop culture.” In this case, Cal’s clothes possibly represent this culture, one made famous by rapping about killing, drugs, and the dehumanizing of women. Am I wrong in my anxiety toward his character? There is a definite moral backlash to this though, especially when addressing the inaccuracy of judging someone by their clothes or music choices, but personally I find when analyzing the lesser of two evils, judging a conscious choice such as clothing seems much more legitimate than an innate phenotype.
In the end, society has deemed race and culture as synonymous which is why I think Doctor Johnson’s assumption is very easily accepted .It is this attitude that causes people to react as they do toward certain races. The people of a certain ethnicity are grouped together in thought and compared in practice, creating stereotypes and prejudices. Sometimes, it seems that we forget about the immense potential for variation and exception.