I have written several posts about my experiences with sexism, both in work and personal situations (for example, most men’s reactions to seeing my bass guitars, assuming they belong to David, due to the mere fact David is a man and I happen to be a woman, a woman who plays the bass!). Because I am Caucasian, I have never experienced racism in a direct manner, however, I have witnessed numerous examples of racism among my family members, my husband’s family members, friends, co-workers, clients, mock jurors and other research participants, and strangers. Having devoted my career to the study of human nature, including sexism, racism, and other expressions of prejudice, I am saddened by my personal experiences with these issues. (As an aside, my major professor, Dr. John C. Brigham, is one of the most well respected authorities in the world on the issues of racism, stereotypes, prejudice, and biases in forensic settings. I have been studying these concepts since the late 1970s and, as such, I possess expertise and credentials in this area that far surpass those of the average person.) I have watched, with both scientific scrutiny as well as disgust, people’s reactions when my research team and I enter upscale restaurants in small towns. Haven’t these people ever seen someone with dreadlocks before, I wonder? David and I have had many experiences with our African-American, Bahamian, and Haitian employees being harassed by our local police, just because they were driving to our home, or eating lunch in a city park, or stopping “too long” at a stop sign. Not one of our Caucasian employees has ever reported being harassed in these, or similar, ways. David is currently having problems with a family member who requires assistance with activities of daily living but who is a racist to the point of demanding “no non-white person” is employed in a care giver role. This person would rather not receive any help than receive it from someone whose skin happens to be a different color! Wow! I have frequently been placed in the position in both professional and personal settings when people say horribly racist things, then, if they stop to think about to whom they are speaking, say, “Oh, Melissa doesn’t think jokes making fun of black people are funny.” No, I do not, nor will I ever, think making fun, or abusing, or lynching anyone of any race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or other personal characteristic is a good idea! And I am glad not to be similar to those who hold these negative attitudes, regardless of who they are. We have come a long way since Brown v. The Board of Education, the walk to Selma, and the Watts riots, but we still have a long, long way to go to eradicate the ignorance and hate that permeates our society.
One doesn’t have to look hard, even in 2018, to see overt racism. It might be obvious in Charlottesville, or it might be subtle, or not so subtle, as in many political discussions. While getting beyond the battles of the civil rights era is important, moving forward has proven difficult in the United States. Maybe it is cyclical. When times are tough, picking on “others” may seem a simple answer. People may have different skin tones, countries of origin, native languages, or other differences. Putting people into groups based on these factors, or maybe the color of their flags from home, creates unneccessary conflict. Rodney King once famously said, “Can’t we all just get along?” It seems such an easy question to an age old problem. If only the answer was just as easy. Enough said.
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