Thursday, January 22, 2009

harvard's project implicit

Take an implicit association test, the kind used to identify unconscious bias. Wanting to believe we are free of racial bias is not the same as being free of racial bias. That is not to say we shouldn't act in every way we can to fight racial prejudice in our society and in ourselves.

I remember when I was kid I learned a new vocabulary word when I went to visit my grandparents in New Mexico. That word was "wetback," and I loved the sound of it. Whenever I saw someone who looked Mexican, I would say to my grandmother, "Look, Grammie! There goes another wetback!" like I'd just seen a roadrunner or something. I definitely did not understand it as a racial slur. In fact, when someone explained the why of "wetback," that some Mexicans swam across the river to get to the United States, it only made it seem cooler to me. After my mom heard me casually tossing off this choice little word, she said it was derogatory and I shouldn't say it. "Do you think they like to be called that?" I remember her saying. "Well, I sure would," I thought. "I wish I could swim across a river to get to another country and I wish they'd call me wetback for it."


Chocolate on my Cranium said...

We moved to Georgia right before I started seventh grade. The kids there only knew black and white and because I was neither thought I was mixed. I was called Oreo for the first half of the year. They just couldn't get that I was half Mexican. They finally stopped calling me any names until about May when we had a play to put on. My friend and I were in charge of helping with the backdrops. One day we made a huge mess and had to clean it up. From then on we were known as "Spic and Span". I told my mom thinking it was the funniest thing in the world but she, of course, was outraged that they were calling me a spic.

I still think it was a good play on words.

athena said...

i get called a kiwi all the time. it has it's connatations of a little brown creature that can't fly (like clueless maori). we call europeans pakehas (white maoris) rather than white men. in australia we call englishmen especially those that are fresh, pommies. we say it to each others faces and it's fine what usually bugs us is how we are treated rather than what we are called. i guess things are more iffy here in the states. i know if i called my african american friends the n word i would be seen as a terrible person with no respect.

Mama Ava said...

OMG that is the funniest story I've heard in, like, forever! In today's PC world, bravo to you for telling it. I will giggle the rest of the day. So, in the same spirit...

One of my children when very young remarked that an African-American child's nose looked like a monkey's nose. While I was trying to jump-start my heart and pull my thoughts together, he went on to say how much he liked monkeys and how he thought the little boy's nose was really cool because he (my child) didn't have any parts that looked like an animal.

Honestly, what reply can you make? I told him how that would make him feel bad if he heard that, that it might be insulting, and my son just did NOT get that at all. "Who wouldn't want to be like a monkey?" he replied.

Everyone I know calls New Zealanders kiwis...including the New Zealanders. I guess the label has to have some negative connotation to make it a problem. I don't know that kiwi carries the same message that some of the other labels mentioned do.

What I loved in TZ was how Europeans talked about each other. Once I had a runin with a woman and I was trying to work out if she was just really mean or really didn't understand how she sounded. I had several people from different European countries tell me, "you know, you have to let it go...she's just German, you know." That's an explanation that would never fly in the US.

Thanks again for the story Calandria, it's priceless.

Ballerina Girl said...

As I said overseas really gives one a different perspective.
Mu husband is from Peru, and we have lived in Venezuela and Brazil.
In these places, I have found that it is more of a class prejudice.
People routinely nickname a person BECAUSE of the way they look. Someone that is dark is called negrita or negrito...meaning though I believe affectionately, blackie....or gordita ar flacito...meaning fatty or skinny....
the a/o at the end is for feminine (a) or masculine (o).
Here is Brazil there are couples of many different races matched together and it seems to be fine.
Interesting....just a different perspective

athena said...

i have a lot of biases. i'm also partial to studies by harvard. ;) interesting that we would not dear send our children to harvard to be educated but hold their studies like the holy grail. i mean seriously, people don't speak their mind? maybe.

in nz we called samoans fobs. fresh of boat, or fresh of blane (plane). most of the racial tension in nz is between the islanders and the moaris.

Calandria said...

Mama Ava, that is hilarious. Children are the best!

Anonymous said...

I took one of those tests today to see what they were about. The answer really surprised me. It seemed to me that the test made it really hard to be neutral?

Anonymous said...

So, my results say I slightly prefer white people over black people and Barack Obama over John McCain. Whatever.

I remember the first time I heard the term "cracker" I thought it was because of my skin, which was kind of annoying, but not much else. Later, I found out it was because of the way white men used to crack whips across the backs of slaves, and that makes quite the difference. I have never been a whip-cracker, and don't appreciate being referred to as one.

In Saipan, people use the Hawaiian word for white person - howlie. It means, "without a spirit" because white people don't kiss upon greeting, but rather shake hands. Again, a bit derogatory.

Overall though, I just let these things go. It's really just not worth my time responding to them. Especially when my wit was designed for people who hold a higher vocabulary.

Anonymous said...

I read the info on the test and they say if you take to long it is inconclusive. In other words, the test is set up black and white. There is no middle road.