Friday, November 14, 2008


I was listening to a podcast on the subject of racism yesterday. The speaker made the following statement (my paraphrase):
"Suppose you are walking alone along a city street, late at night. A group of five young men of the same ethnicity as each other are heading towards you, talking to each other and haven't noticed you. There are many reasons why you might feel apprehensive in such a scenario. But if you would feel more apprehensive if the group of men was from a different ethnic background to you than if they were the same, then you are (at least slightly) racist in your attitude."
I disagree with this statement.

I don't think I am racist (it wouldn't work well in my place of work - most of the people I work with are not from the UK and a significant portion are not of white European origin), but I know that some people (from across the whole spectrum of ethnicities) are. I know that there are such things as racially motivated attacks. There may be several reasons why a group of five young men might attack a lone walker late at night. Hopefully there are many more reasons why they might not. But if we factor racial reasons in there, then the hypothetical group of men who are ethnically different from me have one more possible reason why they should attack me than the hypothetical group who are of the same ethnicity. So if group A has more potential reasons to attack me than group B, then it is entirely justified to be slightly more apprehensive if group A is approaching me.

Or am I racist?

What do you think?

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At 10:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If -hypothetically- people who wore blue jackets were more likely to commit the crime of shoplifting then we would be wary of all such coloured coat wearers, that’s only natural.

When the tabloid media saturates the information market with reports about certain ethnic groups, we find ourselves acting accordingly. This is more of a sign of gullibility than racism, not that I'm calling you gullible.

There are in fact a whole plethora of reasons for us to feel anxious about an approaching group, not just ethnicity; class, age, dress-code, area, and a whole load of others perhaps sub-conscious, influence how we feel. To brand this racism is absurd.

At 1:13 am, Anonymous Josh W said...

Well you are being racially discriminating. I would say it only shifts into bad bad racism when you do it for an unjustified reason.
Even then, many people who do such things are just misinformed, not evil wretched intolerants!

Here is what made me decide to treat people more consistently:
If you see two people walking down the street, one black and one white, the black guy could be from London and the white guy Poland.
Even someone from britain might have a really different upbringing and culture from you, give or take a few TV shows that I know many people from other countries will have seen too!
So if you're just good to everyone while keeping to yourself more with people who seem drunk or belligerent, you'll bypass all that potential for falsely assumed certainty, and give people no justified grounds for offence.


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