Weer’d made a comment in this post that kind of bugged me:
Still I’ve noticed that the more homogenous a population is in an area the more revolting the racism can be. I knew a ton of people in Maine who would drop the N-Bomb frequently, and would make horrible cracks about blacks….but I always wondered if they had even SEEN one.
It’s a LOT harder to make such cracks when you know people of a minority or other groups.
Where I grew up there were virtually no “people of color”. Technically the family farm was (and is) on an Indian reservation but most of the land had been purchased by whites over the years and no Indians have lived there since before I was born. 20 miles away, in Lapwai, the entire town was (and probably still is) essentially Nez Perce. But we only saw them when our schools competed. They were serious competitors just like the kids from Grangeville and Kamiah who also had few, if any, non-whites. Their athletic ability was everything. The only pigmentation that mattered was that of their uniform. The inferiority of that pigmentation did not extrapolate to an inferiority in the pigmentation of their skin.
But blacks? I think there might have been one guy in our entire high school for a few months. I saw people with black skin on TV (remember “Red Skelton”, “Bill Cosby”, and “Sanford and Son”?) and when our family went to California to visit relatives. But never around home.
Jews? Zero would be my guess. And I don’t recall even getting a sense of what physical characteristic might be associated with being a Jew from TV. I just thought of it as a different religion.
People of Asian descent were recognizable from TV but I don’t recall actually seeing any until I went to college. One of mom’s best friends from high school (I think) was of Japanese descent. But she still lived in the Los Angles area where they had met. They kept in touch via mail, an occasional phone call, and rare visits that didn’t occur until after I left home.
When I was a freshman in college I took a sociology class and one of the first things we did was look at stereotypes. We were supposed to identify the stereotypes associated with a collection of various people in a picture. I had no idea.
Then there was the stereotypes associated various last names. I had no idea.
I was surprised to find out that my classmates knew what type of name was “supposed” to be associated with what type of personality trait. What makes you think you can determine a personality from their name or a picture of them? Are you insane? I didn’t even know how to determine nationality from someone’s name. Blonde hair? Okay, maybe that was Scandinavian. But my younger brother was blonde and we didn’t have any Scandinavian ancestors that I had ever heard about. Straight black hair and the different eyes, yeah, that was Asian. I knew that from television and national geographic. The same with black skin and tightly curled black hair and people with origins in Africa.
Our neighbors had names like Pressnall, Newman, Carey, Lansing, Weaver, Sullivan, Hasse, Brown, Morgan, Choate, Preussler, Yenni, Vaughn, Morgan, Vannoy, Reece, Cole, Cook, Daniels, King, Ferguson, Petticord, Wisdom, McIver, Woods, Johnson, LeBaron, Parks, Henderson, Schroader, Medlock, Cox, and Schneider. Add in Huffman and you would have essentially all the last names within two or three miles of where I grew up, the kids and teachers I went to grade school with.
I knew the Schroader’s and the Hasse’s were from Germany because of their accents but I had no idea the national origins of anyone outside our family. To the best of my knowledge their families had been in the U.S. for multiple generations like mine and they were, for all practical purposes, “from” Idaho. National origin, religion, and pigmentation were completely, totally, irrelevant to our interactions with each other. And so it was when I met a much greater variety of people with different attributes when I went to college.
I approached my sociology 101 instructor, a TA, and told them I didn’t have a clue how to answer the questions or where to look up the answers. The answers certainly weren’t in the book. I think she was just as uncomprehending of the situation as I was. “Everybody knows these things. It’s just the things learned growing up, from friends, family, the media, and associating with other people in general.” After insisting that I certainly didn’t learn these anywhere she finally assured me that it wasn’t really that important. The exercise wasn’t even going to be graded. It was just to demonstrate a point.
I was rather unsettled by “the point.” The only point I got was that somehow “everybody” knew the answers but I had nearly no clue and had no idea how to research the answers.
This was extremely new territory for me. School up to that point had been almost trivially easy to me. To the point that I had poor study habits and except for English and spelling classes (they are illogical and inconsistent) could read the text book, zip through the homework, then half listen to lectures and get B’s and A’s with almost no studying for the tests. I did have some problems when the teachers were wrong about something and they wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to correct them. But that was only an issue in grade school.
High school was fun and I liked all but two of my teachers. One was a drunk who ultimately killed himself when he drove off the road at high speed when leaving a brothel. And the one that read the textbook, sentence by sentence of a previous edition to the one we had, called it a lecture, and insisted we write down every word as “notes”. There was one who was about two thirds nuts and a horrible teacher, but he was likable and I learned quite a bit from reading the text book and doing the lab experiments.
Now I was confronted by a situation where not only was the material illogical but I had no way to research the correct answers and the instructor said, “Everybody knows this”. A similar thing happened in English 101 when the instructor told us we didn’t need to explain certain universal concepts like Original Sin and The Trinity in our essays. I had no idea what Original Sin or The Trinity were (my family was Christian Scientist). I was able to look it up but it was quite discomforting that, again, “everybody” was supposed to know something that I had no clue about.
If you have been reading my blog for a long time you will probably recall that I have semi-frequently said that I know I’m “different”. The material above is a significant component of how I came to realize this.
My sociology instructor was right. That failing of mine in the first week or so was only of significance to me. I didn’t have any real issues in getting through college but I majored in Electrical Engineering which was so much easier than those messy illogical things. Illogical claims, emotional reasoning, and empathy for people claiming knowledge while spouting nonsense are still almost impossible for me. But I don’t worry about it like I used to.
It wasn’t until much, much later when people accused me of being racist and prejudiced because I was from Idaho didn’t agree with their leftist agenda that I did some serious self examination. Was I really a racist and just didn’t know it? After all, the stereotype fit, right? I concluded, and I believe rightly so, it was my accusers that were prejudiced, racist, and bigots to boot.
Back to the post by Weer’d.
I know that “everybody knows” that if you don’t have contact with other races, religions, etc. then you are going to have prejudiced views of “others”. I could be snarky here and just let Robert Heinlein school you on what it means when someone says “everybody knows”. But more serious guidance is called for in this instance.
I contend there must be a cofactor if not a completely different basis for the prejudice that just happens to be highly correlated. You can throw this data point out as an outlier but you might also be missing a solution or perhaps a way to mitigate a serious societal issue.