Still racism

Racism is not only an attitude of seeing people of a certain ethnic background as inherently inferior, and then treat them accordingly. It can also be more insidious. Whenever we attribute something to someone based on their membership in a particular ethnic group, and act on it without checking if it is true, it is racism. (And if the group membership is based on sex, then sexism, or age, then ageism, and so on.)

This second form of racism has real life effects as much as the first one, which a current case in Norway is an unfortunate example of.

A black man in his thirties was knocked down in a park (he asked some guys to take it easy with their soccer playing because there were several infants in the area), fell and hit his head, was unconscious for a while, then delirious and lost control of his functions which led to wetting his pants.

When the ambulance came, they apparently thought “black man, in a park, delirious, wet his pants” so assumed “he must be drunk or high on something” and decided to not take him, to the shock and protests of everyone around (several witnesses, including his girlfriend, had stayed to wait for him to be taken to the hospital). Apparently, their trust in their own logic was so strong that information from a large number of witnesses, contradicting their flawed assumptions, did not sway their decision.

Maybe the most amazing thing is that the ambulance personnel and hospital administrators insist they did everything right, and that racism was not in the picture. And this is understandably what disturbs and upsets a large number of people right now.

If they had found a 10 year old girl in the same state, would they have sweared at her and left her there, as they did with him? Or a 70 year old nicely dressed man with his wife at his side? Or even a white man in his thirties? It seems highly unlikely.

I assume health personnel are trained in noticing symptoms of their own racism, and not let it affect their decisions and behavior in these types of situations. But something it obviously still missing, including an acknowledgment that yes, this was probably racism.

Not the blatant “niggers go home” one, but the one assuming certain things about individuals from a particular group, and not allowing contradictory information to get in the way of acting on that assumption.

We all do this, of course. We all make assumptions about individuals based on their group membership. But we can notice this, avoid blindly acting on it, and also more actively look for information to contradict these initial assumptions.

3 thoughts to “Still racism”

  1. I guess apparently is a key word here. It might be racist. It might not. My guess is that there is prejudice, but not racism at play.

    The media is making the racism apparent, cause they know it gonna sell. And we love to feast on it. So within hours the politicians have caught the smell of blood….cause we all love the bad news. Sadly.

  2. Hi Henrik, and yes, you are right. It is probably jumping to conclusions to call it racism. The other side of it is that since it could be racism, it is a reminder to all of us to see how we are doing it in our own lives.

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