How does one measure racism or implicit bias? Is it an ‘either-or’ situation? In my opinion, which happens to align with the limited research data, there are degrees of prejudice. Prejudice is human, and should refer to preferences or likes, very simply. We each have our prejudices, on a personal level. When referring to groups of people with a generalized opinion, this is where we get into trouble. Let’s backtrack a little.
Recently in the news was the host of ‘The Bachelor/Bachelorette’ series, Chris Harrison, who made some comments that were and remain controversial. What was heard by others, taken from the words he spoke concerning a contestant’s participation in an ‘antebellum’ event while she was attending college. Incidentally, this year’s bachelor just happens to be an African-American young man.
There are issues with her being involved in such activities, whether in 2018 or 2021. It was racially-insensitive. That these events are even planned and executed in the 21st Century is appalling, and quite frankly, wrong on every level. In Harrison’s defense of this young lady, what was heard, upon deeper examination, was him defending ‘racism’. Never justifying racist ideology, it was almost as though he believed that the event itself was not offensive, because it was 2018 and that she was still in college.
Whether people are awakening to racism and social injustices[since George Floyd’s murder], it still demonstrates an absolute insensitivity. The question, posed to the interviewer and to the public, concluded that because it was three years ago, it would have been and actually was just fine. She is thus excused from scrutiny and should not be deemed ‘guilty’ for her past actions. Either scenario, his statement was expressed very poorly. His own level of cultural sensitivity, or ‘woke’-ness has officially been ‘out-ed’.
So, what do I think about his statement/comment? What was he trying to convey? What he was trying to do was defend a ‘sweet’ young lady, as he saw her. He was looking beyond her actions, and viewing this as an act of a ‘child’- a growing pain, a mistake. This was Mr. Harrison offering an excusable defense for her actions. First, it is neither an excusable nor meritorious defense. There are none. How would a person of Jewish faith feel knowing that in 2018, there are people having parties framed by a Nazi theme. How insensitive is that? Pardon the graphic reference. But, the idea is the same-inexcusable, especially since through our education system, by the age of 18, every child should have been taught about the Holocaust. That is BOTH disrespectful and disappointing at the same time.
What her actions and his excuse said to the ‘woke’ world of an educated and comprehensively humanistic consciousness, is that neither recognized the level of ignorance demonstrated. Whether antebellum South or North, that period in history represented a time when no white person was without responsibility. Every state in the union benefited from the practice of enslavement.
There is so much learning and mindset changes that must take place. Not only directed towards them both personally, but to white people in America does this apply. In fact, because of a substantially hidden and covered-up history of this country’s approach to race, black people themselves are largely kept ignorant of the evidence of an amazingly brilliant ancestral history in the face of the injustices they were subjected to by whites. They, too, must be taught the whole story.
The problem is much greater than Chris Harrison, as he became the ‘poster boy’ of white perspectives. It is greater than this young woman’s college antics. While I do believe that neither are evil racists, I also believe that they are the result of white privilege and a failed public education system.
The fact that an event would be framed in an antebellum[before the Civil War-during slavery] period of time by anyone anywhere, whether 3 years ago, 10 years or today, is disappointing. It awakens all black folk, as it should among whites, to the continuous legitimacy of protests and national movements that cry out for social justice.
What this does is alert us as adults, who wish for a peaceful and just democracy, and as human beings, is the need for education reform. It demonstrates a lack of cultural sensitivity, and at the same time, his disconnect with the public’s response to the words and actions of both people. It clearly shows us that the country still hasn’t reckoned itself with the past, and the process is just beginning. It is a process. How do we start the process that strategically helps defeat or minimally decrease racism and manage implicit bias? One word…….education.
Overall, I do see that both he and the young lady about whom this controversy centers, are sincere. It simply represents a ‘learning curve’ for them both, this country and we have work to do.
There must be a great deal more targeted learning; learning the full history of this nation and its emphasized obsession with race and white supremacy. It is time for strength, collectively, and courage to reign over fear and denial. It is time to re-teach, discuss and debate, if necessary, to debunk all or most of that which has been drilled into the collective brains of children for generations now. This must happen before they, too, play ‘follow the leader’. They are supposed to be culture creators, not creatures of culture. Let the children, as digital natives, follow their natural inclinations to disrupt immaculate perceptions. This is how we prevent their dehumanization of others because they hadn’t been taught to see what that looks like. Understanding our past, without exception, helps them lead the way forward, as global citizens, better than those who came before them.
Ignorance is no longer an excuse. That is the takeaway, people.