Sunday, July 14, 2013

You Might Be A Racist If . . .

Before I embark into the tongue-in-cheek parody of Jeff Foxworthy, I want to discuss the issue of prejudice, which is not a particularly funny subject.  Many of us claim a desire to eradicate prejudice in this country. That is an impossible goal. Our nature, as humans, is to form prejudices.  Some prejudices can save our lives.  If we see a grizzly bear in the wild, our prejudice tells us the bear may be violent and hurt us.  We avoid grizzly bears in the wild, regardless of any prior contact with this grizzly bear or any grizzly bear. One definition of prejudice by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, "[A] preconceived judgment or opinion. . ." Many, if not most opinions are preconceived.

When I see a motorist driving slowly on a highway, I pass and look to see if the driver is elderly. I do this because of prejudice, even though I myself am not a spring chicken. Ironically, once I had a young white male driver swerve around me and flip me the bird.  I suppose I either drove too slowly or swerved or did something to evoke this anger. I don't know what I did to this day. However, I am also prejudiced against young white male drivers, because I assume most erratic vehicles are driven by them.  I also must admit that I assume most Bible thumpers are Caucasian, most gang members are African-American or Latino, men, women are afraid to take risks, and most whiners are women.  I am not proud of my prejudices, but I admit I have them. The only way I know how to deal with my prejudiced is to admit I have them and endeavor to give each individual I meet personally the benefit of the doubt and assume the best. 

I learned this lesson through my work as a trial lawyer.  When a jury panel walked into the courtroom, I assumed the members of the panel would reject me, so I rejected them first. Look at Juror Number 3, with the phony toupee, Number 5 who seems like a mousy housewife, Number 24 who is a bigot, etc.  My clients did not fare as well when I prejudged the jurors out of fear of rejection. Now, when a venire panel arrives in the courtroom, I consciously force myself to think, "This group looks like a decent cross-section of upstanding people. I bet if I met them personally, I would really like each and every one of them.  I find, if you assume the best from people, the best is more likely to be what you get. 

So on to the subject of racism. There are many forms of racism - White vs. Black,Black vs. White, White v. Brown, Red, Olive, Asian, etc. and on and on. 

So, you might be a racist if:

1.  You grew up and live primarily around people who are the same race as you;

2.  You have ever stated these words, "I am not a racist, but ..."

3.  You have ever stated these words, "I am not a racist!" ("Methinks she doth protest too much");

4.  You doubt that the Holocaust ever happened;

5.  You wish the Confederacy had won the Civil War;

6.   You fear  that your child will date a member of another race because interracial couples are "stigmatized";

7.  You believe discrimination laws are too"politically correct";

8.  You can't understand why it's wrong for you to use the "n" word since African-Americans use the word to each other and in rap music;

9.  You believe hip hop is not a legitimate type of music;

10.  You think it's really white people, particularly white men, who are the real victims of discrimination in this country in this day and age. 

So, in the aftermath of the Zimmerman acquittal, I caution everyone to recognize her or his prejudices.  All we really know is that a Black kid is dead and the man who killed him was acquitted. Any conclusions we reach are probablycolored by our preconceived notions based on past experiences.  Sometimes the justice system works, sometimes it doesn't. 

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