Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The IS that AIN'T...
An interesting conversation came up recently. I was speaking with one of my former cronies back in New York, a gentleman I used to work with, and the subject of racism came up. The man in question was (once again) railing about the unfairness of corporate life, as he was passed over for promotion (again). He associated this slight to the color of his skin.

Now, I have known the man for near on 10 years, and in fact, he used to work for me. I can tell you this: if he got passed over yet again, it had nothing to do with his skin color. I wrote this man's performance reviews for many years and I can assure you that his lack of upward mobility had nothing to do with his melanin quotient. I can almost quote, word for word, the things I used to put in his reviews. Phrases such as "excessive lateness", "often fails to follow up", "does not submit required progress reports", "lacks initiative" could almost be used as punctuation marks. In fact, he had some reviews that were so bad, that I'm surprised that no one told me to fire him (I wouldn't -- for all his faults he was a good guy, and does try when you light a fire under his behind...until next time). In fact, he was specifically NOT fired because of the color of his skin (the company had been wracked with discrimination suits and was reluctant to create more).

In fact, this man very often agreed with everything I wrote on these reviews, very often just signed them without wanting to discuss anything on there. He accepted what was written as true and just acquiesced. Not once did I hear him complain about a damn thing. So, if my initial hunch is correct, and he's been passed over because he's a borderline worker, where did this racism thing come from?

I have an idea, not very scientific, but it sorta-kinda makes sense.

We're talking about a person that was raised in the late 60's and early 70's and who was fed a steady diet of grievance. The black man in America, despite a Civil War, constitutional amendments, 8 tons of legislation and 150 years of progress, was still treated by the white power structure (i.e. DA MAN) the way he was in 1800. The only difference is that we became much more patronizing and solicitous. Therefore, people have been trained to see racism even when it's not there, and in fact, very often consider the abscense of overt racism, as a sign that racism is omnipresent, but just not expressed. People now "sense" racism by telepathy, even when it's non-existant. The antennae are tuned to something that ain't there. Sort of like NASA making galactic phone calls and hoping the next block of static they receive might be E.T. trying to order a pizza.

The conditioning is complete. Hear the "N" word? React like you've just been stabbed. Don't hear the "N" word? No problem, someone is bound to say it...someday...maybe soon...maybe not...Possibly tomorrow...Hell, they're THINKING it anyway! The expectation that the dreaded epithet will be hurled leaves one waiting for the other shoe to drop constantly. That's one reason we seem to have grown an entire crop of people who just LIVE to be offended by even the most innocuous of comments or situations. That extreme type of person can take anything out of context, pass it through the torture chamber that passes for his/her brain, and when it comes back out, mangled, folded, spindled and mutilated, somehow equates "Wow, this is really good coffee!" with "Go pick me a bale of cotton, boy!" The Ubuiquitous lawsuit soon follows, complete with the words "hostile enviornment", "extreme emotional duress", etc. They've been conditioned to be insulted and offended, and so they invent things to be insulted and offended about.

Even when the person is not an extremist (like the man in question) the conditioning is still evident. "I didn't get this, even though I KNOW I have shortcomings, but I should have had it DESPITE those shortcomings, because whitey owes me. The fact that I don't must be because of racism." In other words, you should have had something for nothing and you're pissed that you didn't receive it? And because you didn't get whatever it was, it's because the "system" is against you? Even when you KNOW you don't deserve it?

I found that concept seriously distrubing. My friend found it funny..He giggled...People do that when they've been caught red-handed in intellectual dishonesty.

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