After high school, I asked my uncle whom was the only collage graduate in my family for some advice on my future. Mostly it was about going to collage. He said: “When people go looking for the advice of some wise man on a mountain somewhere they generally already know what they want to do. They are just looking for confirmation”. He knew I wanted to enroll. He was just telling me that I was dragging my feet. Thus informed, I proceeded to drag my feet for another four years before enrolling for classes.
I guess what I am getting at here is that sometimes you know things on some level but somehow this knowledge remains unreal to you. In my case it took me quite awhile to realize that I was avoiding taking responsibility for my own life. The things I learned this semester in Race and Ethnic Relations are kind of like that. We are aware of social injustice, but it takes a back seat to the rest of our day to day problems. We like to believe that the universe is just, we have free will and people get what they deserve. This is an oversimplification. Actually it’s more like an excuse for not having to feel bad. In psychology class I learned about actor observer discrepancy and self serving bias. Taken together I think that they can offer some insight as to how we may come to ignore social injustice. To put it into simple terms, when we are successful we like to attribute this to our own abilities, but when we are unsuccessful we like to attribute this to outside factors: “It wasn’t my fault I failed the test. The professor had it out for me”. When others are unsuccessful we don’t mind attributing this to their own internal shortcomings, but when others are successful we tend to attribute this to outside factors: “I’m the better player. He beat me in chess because he got lucky”.
We have a tendency to make theses assumptions because they protect us from potentially true situations that we don’t want to face. I think that we my apply them not only to our selves and others but to entire groups of people as well. I think this applies to modern racism more than the traditional variety. But what this means is that we all have to be vigilant over ourselves. Each person has to make it his or her responsibility to be not only tolerant of each other but respectful to each other. This is a message we hear all the time but it does not seem to always sink in.