Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

The Incredible Invisible Race

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A new study from Northwestern University that says “whites who are particularly worried about appearing racist seem to suffer from anxiety that instinctively may cause them to avoid interaction with blacks”.

The study was performed by Jennifer A. Richeson, associate professor of psychology and African-American studies and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at Northwestern, and Sophie Trawalter, post-doctoral fellow, IPR.  It appeared in the journal Psychological Science with the title “The Threat of Appearing Prejudiced and Race-based Attentional Biases”.

The participants in the study said they worried about appearing biased and the way they have learned to deal with the negative stimuli (black people) is by ignoring it.

So perhaps this is why as I’m walking down the street white folks have just brushed past me as if I wasn’t there.  But why is it they always seem to have a full description when a brother is committing a crime?

The study explains the stranger on the street but what about in other situations?  Like on bus rides or classroom settings or the work day?  I remember going up to a coworker in a different department and asking them a question about something.  I’ve encountered the person before and I consider myself to be pretty friendly, they asked me how long I had been working there and I told them 10 years and reintroduced myself.

Then there’s my daughter who recently complained about an incident in a dance class that she had.  She has been dancing for 10 years and has been in a couple of shows with the girls  but it seems like every school year they want to act “brand new” on her.  I told her to forget about them.  But last fall one of the girls was sitting around and discussing (with another white girl) how much fun they had over someone’s house. 

“Yeah, she was so nice,” said the second girl.  “I forget what her name is, do you remember it.”

“No, I don’t remember it,” said the first girl.  She turns to a black girl in class and asks her if she remembers her name.

The black girl doesn’t know what they are talking about.

“You know, she was in X play with us?  We went over her house and had a sleepover and made pizzas and stuff?  Don’t you remember?”

The black girl looked at them, confused.  She had no idea what they were talking about.  But my daughter did.  She was the “missing black” girl who shared in the slumber pizza party and they even exchanged gifts and pictures.

“And they just act like I’m not there!” my daughter said, crying on my shoulder. “I’ve been with these girls in classes every Saturday for years and they don’t see me.  In school this girl asked me when did I start taking Saturday classes and we were in several plays together.  What the hell is wrong with them?”

“White people are just like that,” I say by way of explanation, which is really not one at all.  How can an invisible person explain the ways of visible people?  Oddly enough, this subject came up with me and another mother (the mother of the “other” black girl in dance class).  One day she brought up to me that her daughter felt ignored/overlooked/invisible in the Saturday classes; she blamed it on race.  Right here I would like to point out that the mother is white and she adopted her daughter who is (fully) black.

“It’s the way some white people are,” she said, disgusted.

Perhaps we are wrong and it really is just a case of avoidance learning; they don’t want to see the girls because they are afraid their action may be misconstrued as being racist.

But it’s not comfort because it still comes off as a racist.


Written by rentec

2 April, 2008 at 7:56 pm

Posted in race, science, social issues

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