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So NOT racist.

December 12, 2010

I used to worry that I was racist (See Lilah’s post on that topic here). I got my own intrusive thoughts on the subject from time-to-time, but the main reason I was worried is because I had a harder time telling apart two Asian people than I did telling apart two white people. (Even just writing that sentence “out loud” made me hate myself a little bit…) When I worked in a day care center for four years, it took me longer to tell apart our two Chinese little boys, or Korean girls, than it did the white little boys or girls. So, enter OCD…

OCD: Wow. Seriously? You’re an awful person. You must be a racist. If you weren’t a racist, you would never confuse them. You knew the two white girls’ names after the first day, but you still confuse the two Asian boys? You’re an awful, awful person. Why else wouldn’t you be able to tell them apart right away?

Right. Awesome. Luckily, of all my OCD thoughts, this one didn’t totally freeze me, but it still wasn’t exactly the most enjoyable thing to worry about being racist.

Now, goodbye OCD and enter reality. Several weeks ago in one of my classes, we were learning about how infants can distinguish sounds from any language, but as they get older, if they’re not still exposed to that language, they’ll lose the ability to discriminate. And then my professor said: “Actually, studies have documented that people have a harder time telling apart individuals of other races/ethnicity than they do of their own.” Oh my god did this set me free–it meant I wasn’t racist! It meant that what I experienced was normal! Common! Scientifically proven with no basis of racism, just a basis of fact and how we as humans are programmed!

Sometimes it’s just really nice when you’re not looking for clarification or help or a calming fact or thought, but it just comes anyway.

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