Monday, January 12, 2009

A Thought On An Underlying Root of Racism

Today as I was getting ready to leave work late, I heard two sets of feet come down the hall and the unmistakable sound of a mop bucket and knew the janitors had arrived. I don't know the men well, but I've spoken to them before; and though only one can speak a rough English, both are of the brightest demeanor. Now I, in a corner of an adjoining room, was stuffing my running gear in a duffel bag when I looked up to see the back of one janitor walk past the door.

He had just started cleaning the room next to mine, when I heard the slight sound of something falling over and a strange utterance. Since neither man hadn't seen me as of yet I imagined this janitor had knocked over a trinket or perhaps just banged his knee into something and merely expressed vocally his surprise in that often random and unpolished language we all are prone to do when we're alone, or in this case when we think we are. Minutes later, as I walked out the door, signaling that I was there, I said "Good night," as if to say both hello and good bye in that small phrase, and I left.

As I drove home I thought of that janitor, I thought of my own impression of that small and almost insignificant incident. Fore as I had been in that neighbouring room, hearing him utter what was to me a strange combination of sounds, I could not help but recognize that in that same situation a different result could occur. That a person who observed this man of possible foreign decent, who after bumping into something had made a superflorous and odd sound; the observer might associate the strangeness of the janitor's actions not in relation to his circumstance, but solely in relation to his appearance, and with people of similar appearances.

I imagine that an observer might ignore situational factors, and instead correlate perceived strange actions with an individual's differing appearance. That as human beings, struggling always to find causes to effects, instead of a person rationalizing the janitor let out the odd sequence of vocal pitches because he was surprised and thought that he was alone, that same person may falsely generalize that that strangeness is exhibited in all people from a specific different culture or race.

And as I think about this now, about the mistaken linking of cause and effect, the associating of a person's or a group of persons' actions with an observed difference, and the subsequent erroneous generalization(s), I am left acknowledging that this very process might be an underlying factor to racism and all the evils it brings.


Northern PoV said...

pretzel logic ....
methinks you done too much thinkin' said...

Northern: Care to elucidate? Where was the knotted or twisted logic?