I was thinking about one…

I was thinking about one of the fundamental problems of combating sexism, racism, etc. Which is this:

a) I want to work to create a professional environment where any racist/sexist/etc. action is unacceptable. Just flat out unacceptable. Whether it's on the level of referring in a general way to women's bitchiness, or as overt as grabbing a woman's breast at an awards ceremony, I want those actions to be noted by the community and called out, in strong terms. I want to emphasize that our community won't tolerate this behavior.

b) But at the same time, I want to de-emphasize shame for the individual. Because we all carry racism/sexism/etc. within us, to greater or lesser extent. All of us are likely to fuck up about this stuff, at some point our lives -- we're heavily socially programmed that way, products of our environments. With the best of intentions, we're going to mess up, and when that happens, we need the community to understand that we aren't in ourselves particularly evil. We just found that a bit of ugliness inside ourselves has gotten out and made itself known. As long as you're constantly engaged in the attempt to be better, to rise above your racist/sexist/etc. programming, that's plenty, I think. Grow. Learn.

So racist action bad, internalized racism -- well, not good, but understandable, common, impossible to escape entirely, at least in this time and place. It's not quite a paradox, but it is something of a mental/verbal/social juggling act. Hate the sin, love the sinner? Something like that.

It's okay to admit to a racist thought or two. We can still be friends afterwards. Here's one of mine -- when driving through a black neighborhood in Chicago at night, I'm tempted to lock the car doors, if they weren't locked before. I don't do it, because high-crime neighborhoods don't necessarily correlate to skin color, and assuming they do is a bit of buried racism. But the urge is there, and I have to fight it every time. And I like it when men open doors for me, or carry my bags. I try to fight that urge too; I'm perfectly capable of opening my own door, carrying my own bag. I open doors for children, old folks, people carrying packages (including big burly men), and anyone who gets to the door right after me, male or female. But it's a conscious effort, at least some of the time. Programming runs deep.

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