Racism or Social Imprinting?

Today (5 July 2008) I saw something that made me decide to write this piece. I saw a Black man walking two pit bulls. He was wearing a pair of jeans that were low in the back so that you could see the underwear and a white t-shirt. What struck me about this sight is that I felt myself immediately think of this person as a “gang-banger” type who probably kept the dogs for fighting.

The problem is that I as I got closer to this person, I realized that I knew him and there is no way that he would do that with his dogs. Add to this that he is the furthest thing from a “gang-banger” that I know a person to be.

So it makes me wonder, is what I experienced actually true racism, even in a small form, or is it a case of social imprinting, where we see something and based on news, past experiences or stereotyping, we assume something that is not always the case.

Using the black person I spoke about at the start of this as an example, how many people that saw exactly the same thing I did, would think the same way?  Granted, I am sure not all would, but I would wager that a majority of people would. I would even go so far as to say that it would not only be Caucasians that would think this way, I think that you would see similar reactions in various other races as well, including other Black folks.

Who’s fault is it for people thinking this was? Is it the fault of the person who is looked at and assumed to be what he or she is, in fact, not simply because of how they look or choose to dress? Is it the fault of me, or anyone else, for being so quick to judge a person because of certain things they do that fit in with a social group? Where DOES fault lie?

Here is my take on the answer and I am betting that many of you will not like it. The fault lies with us all and it is all about understanding and education. When I looked at that person today, for that briefest of moments, I did not see a fellow human who is almost 100% anatomically similar to me, I did not see human whose only difference from me was the color of his skin. For that moment I saw what he media wanted me to see based on the minority of the black people that appear on various shows in the negative light.

The fact that I reacted the way I did shows a certain level of failure on my part to, in that one moment, not differentiate fiction from fact and assume that because this guy was dressed the way he was and had pit bulls, I made the cardinal sin of thinking that he was a gang-banger.  This does bother me, because anyone who REALLY knows me, knows that this is not who I am.

The moral to my little rant here?  Be aware.  Be very mindful of your thoughts and actions.  Our thoughts and ideas about how we see things lead to actions, either obvious or hidden.  This is what creates hate in the world.  There is already enough of that, we do not need more.

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3 thoughts on “Racism or Social Imprinting?”

  1. Wow, I’m really glad you expressed that. I know you personally and I know for sure that you are not racist in anyway. I totally agree with everything you said. It is surprising how much the media shapes our view of people. Even in the case of white people, like rich white people. That they are all greedy and stuck up and look down on everyone else. Or even the white trash stereotype. I know people who would be considered white trash that are smart as hell. Just because you look the part or have an accent does not mean your just like the rest. Every man is his own person and makes his/her own decision on who they become as individual.

  2. Hi, your post is vey interesting. I agree in some comments, but i think that was basically, discrimination.


  3. Welcome, Mauricio… I am hoping that you are not just an automated “bot”.

    I never denied that it was a form of discrimination. What the point of the article was to address that we can all have moments where we experience this. You will be hard pressed to find anyone that has not had at least one moment of racial judgment in their minds.

    If you are suggesting that I practice discrimination, then you could not be further from the truth.


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