Letter to the editor: Racism is embedded in American culture

Thank you for the “Not in Our Town?” article (June 25). I read with interest Chief Hanley’s assessment that the “video of the incident, taken from the two police cars at the scene, shows no evidence of racism.” 

Let’s not let ourselves off the hook so easily. 

“No evidence of racism” on a video does not mean racism did not play a role. When Black people are seen by whites as threatening as they simply go about their lives, this is indeed evidence of racism — the racism we all imbibe simply from being social organisms living in America. Racism is embedded in our culture. We are cultural creatures with brains and bodies that absorb cultural messages. 

We’ve been trained by countless messages to perceive Blacks as threatening, scary, dangerous. We see Black people going about their lives (working, playing in the park, jogging, driving) through this lens, and as a result we are primed to see threat and react with fear when no threat is present. As individuals, we may feel disgusted by this, but our conscious disgust for racism doesn’t somehow magically erase racism’s workings in our own subconscious. Alas, none of us have that magic wand. 

One way we can see this in ourselves is to take Harvard’s implicit bias test (google Harvard implicit bias): tinyurl.com/Harvard-implicit-bias. If we see it, we can better confront and mitigate its impacts.

Anya Schwartz

Bristol

 

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