Facing our own biases when it comes to race and culture

This is a subject I have been thinking about discussing for a while but I could not find the right wording or organize my thoughts appropriately so I put it away until now. I think since this is just a blog (read by a grand total of ~ 200 people since it started), it basically won't affect the rotation of the earth too much and I will just get over myself and state my thoughts as they come. ( oooops, watch out for bombs and inadvertent insults :-) )

The premise of my humble opinion on the matter of racial and cultural prejudices is that we are all guilty of having some. ( Yep, from Dr. ML King to Eugene Terreblanche and of course your very own blogger... me :-). Don't laugh, you are just as prejudiced as me ). It has been argumented that if one child were to be born in a household with people of all races, the likelihood of that child to grow with racial prejudice is close to null. Well, I believe that is bogus on several levels: 1) I believe that child would still have an formed an early opinion on which group of people he is more comfortable with or likes or admires, it might just not be as easily to identify as expected. 2) this environment is also so unlikely to happen, it is irrelevant to the reality of today's world. (except for hte B.Pitt/A. Jolie family who would make for a great social study and a movie of its own .....but I digress.) [I wan to point out that at the age of 3, I was scared to death of a picture of Louis Armstrong, saying he was too black...:-) obviously not very aware of the fact that I had the exact same skin color :-) anyway, opinions and fears are shaped early and my parents had a good laugh about it and a slight embarassement, I imagine. ]

We, as humans and biolgical creatures, like ( strike that,...) NEED to form an early opinion on our fellow humans because we need a blueprint on how to interact and deal with that fellow human. The uncertainty of the other's behavior or plan of action is too much to handle, therefore we reach back into our own short experience and decide : "well, he looks like that other fellow form before therefore there is a high chance he will act similary". That is the definition of biais, prejudice, racism or bigotry whatever you want to call it. It doesn't strike me as something too harmful though. However it becomes a nuisance when: 1) we are not aware of it or do not want to face it 2) when we do not push the reflection beyond it and let it govern our decision 3) when it is at the level of a community interacting with another community.

However, It is pathetic when someone or a group of people is denied an opportunity for a job, a house or a conversation on the bases of the shallow knowledge we possess of the ethnicity or culture in question. This quick-hit evaluation is often devastating for the person and a major strain on a community.
Now I invite you to the fun game of stereotypes and other common idiotic perceptions. Fell free to add your own list for your favorite people and be ready to receive hate mails and other threats. 
( Keep in mind that the purpose of such list is to emphasize the stupidity of it so …fire away !!!! )

I will start at home: 1) Malagasy folks: "too laid back, country of the moramora ( slow life) , never fight for anything, still live in trees" ( that last statements would be funnier if the classmate who said it was not dead serious I will let it slide because he was 15)
2) Indian folks: " present everywhere in the world, high IQ, will bargain the price down to the cents and below, steal jobs from westerners by getting paid 50 cents on the dollar,..." ( those remarks always make Ranjit, my roommate, laugh...some of those lines are his actually :-) )
3) Black folks: " opiniated, very athletic, rythmn in the blood, powerful vocal chords, prone to confrontation but less prone to solve equations" ( my roommate at Tulane had the worst singing voice in the shower ever, EVER…(oh the humanity !) and he is know on a scholarship to do research in mathematics at Oxford )
4) US of A. folks :" proud, bottom-line driven, ,bullish and love their football” ( that until one of them told me that the only football he cared about is soccer…)
5) French Folk: " savoir-vivre, go on strike often, has flair, existentialist, confrontational but tend to surrender easy in armed battle. ( I wonder how the folk of the resistance think of all this nonsense) .
6) German folks: " disciplined, strong-willed, cold , great car engineers but lack of esthetic flair” ( one word: Claudia and Heidi ....and Gretchen .... that's 3 words actually )
7) chinese folks: " meticulous, smart, foxy, shy, isolated in their community….” ( 100% bogus: trust me , I know from personal experience :-) )
8) Arab folks: “hot-blooded, proselytic about islam, hate western culture” (This is much more idiotic after you listen to my classmate Khalid elaborate on how Beckham could run for mayor in his hometown and get 99% of votes ).
I am waiting anxiously for your own stereotypes and let’s all throw them in the bonfire for narrow-mindedness and lame jokes.

After all, this is all we can do about our almost innate stereotypes and primal fears: face them, accept them and laugh at them. We often fight phobia by plunging ourselves in the very situation we are frightened of ( in my case it precludes visit to the snake pit in every zoo I attend). In a similar fashion, unclouding our judgment of our primary biases necessitates that we indentify them, aknowledge them and understand where they come from. If you are blessed with the absence of preconceived ideas about one's culture and ethnicity, you should consider yourself very fortunate and discard all the nonsense I have written. It may help you understand what most of us have to struggle with to attain objectivity.
Chuck Klosterman is much more articulate and entertaining about this subject, he is also very in tune with contemporary pop culture ( he can explain perfectly why Nirvana is more relevant than Pearl Jam only because of Cobain’s death ) so grab his book if you have time. ( Sorry for the basketball related content of the article , this is again a product of my own bias ).

have a great week !!!!


  1. Check out some stuff by this guy, he says it all:


  2. Hey there, Mosi :-)

    Russell Peters !!!! Of course, really funny fellow. The sketch about the "?" in people's name always gets me.