(originally posted April 2nd, 2006)

The recent story of sexual assault at Duke University highlights one of the major reasons why racism needs to be addressed. It’s not the part about the alleged assault as much as the perception of “haves” versus “nots” in a community where the cost of going to the university in a year is about $3,000 more than what most households make, and where those going to the university don’t come close to the make up of the people living in the community.

Perceptions do matter when it comes to race, as much as we wish they didn’t, and it was evidenced well in an ABC show on 20/20 about 3 weeks ago where several “skits” were put on showing confrontations. People reacted differently when they saw kids picking on another kid based on how those kids were dressed.

People reacted differently when they saw a white couple arguing than a black couple, and even much different than a “known” married couple. And they reacted differently when they thought they were in the privacy of one person who was making racially insensitive comments without realizing they were being filmed.

There is always a struggle when it comes to how people of different races reacts to similar stimulus. As much as I’ve enjoyed all the Harry Potter movies, I always find myself being shocked whenever I see a face that’s not white; and obviously I don’t get shocked often. Or the Star Wars movies, where, from what I’m remembering, we had Samuel Jackson and Billy Dee Williams and only the voice of James Earl Jones.

I often see slights that I mention to someone white, who then says that I’m being paranoid because they didn’t notice it, which they wouldn’t particularly unless it was brought to their attention while they participated somewhat (remember my post about being an invisible man?). Incidences happen all the time, whether one is looking for it or not, and it all depends upon the perception of the person viewing the scene as to whether apparent racism is noticed or not.

To me, it comes down to two things. One, not being afraid to have a dialogue and acknowledging that it’s there. Two, being alert and paying attention, because if you open your eyes and your feelings every once in awhile, you’ll realize that the world isn’t as safe a place for everyone as you may believe it is.