Thought experiment (in case you’ve ever wondered, “What in the world is she thinking???” Here ya go.):
Listening to and learning from my black friends and family members about how they walk through the world has been quite a humbling a process for the last couple of years (Realizing the most basic answer was “different than how I do” was the first step in the process).
After the conversation my (black) sister and I had yesterday about staying together while she was pushing my (white) daughter in the shopping cart so as to avoid an unnecessary police or security encounter, I thought about the benefit of the doubt that I’ve enjoyed my entire life.
I thought about examples like news reports using white suspects’ yearbook pictures but black suspects’ mug shots. Or headlines describing black folk “looting” after Hurricane Katrina, but white folk “salvaging” after Michael.
Then I thought about the society of my childhood. So I did a little thought excercise:
“Imagine if ___________ was black,” and I inserted famously mischievous white characters and thought about the difference in storyline the racial change would necessitate.
Here were the first three off the top of my head.
1. Zach Morris, Saved by the Bell: Behavior problem, menace to the classroom, sexual harasser of female students; expelled to the system alternative school or in juvenile detention.
2. Dukes of Hazard: Incarcerated, because they’ve “been in trouble with the law/ since the day they was born.”
3. The McAllister Family, Home Alone: parents arrested for child abandonment, family separated, kids sent to foster homes. And since it happened a SECOND time? Probably moving from reunification to permanency.
My conclusion was that, in general, white people get the benefit of the doubt concerning intent, and black people are assumed to be doing the worst.
This, of course, is not universal, but when, as a white kid, you grow up with the understanding that breaking the law is ok if you’re “never meaning no harm,” it makes sense that our current culture exists.
What other storylines would be vastly different had the characters been people of color?