Racism As A Learned Behavior

Today, I received a racist comment to one of my blog posts, like I sometimes do.  I let this comment go through, because I censor about 75% of this particular reader’s comments, and this comment was not that bad, in comparison to what they sometimes write.

This got me thinking about a true story that I want to tell, about racism as a learned behavior.

After I graduated from college in the mid 1990s, I returned to live at my parents’ home on the east coast of Florida.  On Friday and Saturday night, I would go out to bars on the beach to try to pick up women.  There were many attractive and beautiful young women from all over the United States who would come to visit Florida, and they wanted to meet men, so it was easy to approach women in bars and nightclubs, they wanted you to.

At a nightclub, I met a young lady who was about my age, who I will call “Nancy”.  I became friends with Nancy.  Nancy was a lesbian, but she was not a male hating lesbian, she liked men.

Nancy had grown up in southwest Florida, in a very affluent community, where there were hardly any black people.  South Florida tends to be politically liberal, and Nancy was a lesbian, so she was politically liberal, equal rights, LGBT rights, civil rights, affirmative action, non-discrimination.

In college Nancy majored in psychology, so she had many times studied the subject of racism, prejudice, discrimination, bias, favoritism, equality, the origins of people’s beliefs, cultural traditions, stereotypes, social norms, and everything related to why people believe or behave a certain way.

After Nancy graduated from college, she became employed in public health care in Florida.  One of Nancy’s job duties, was to perform home visits and assessments with clients who lived in public housing.  Three or four days per week, Nancy would drive her own personal vehicle to the public housing projects which were overwhelmingly and predominantly inhabited by black people.

When Nancy started her job with public health care in Florida, she was probably the least racist person you would find.  She was idealistic, and she wanted to help people, especially poor, disadvantaged, discriminated against black people.

As a blond haired, blue eyed, attractive young lady, she was given a hard time by the young black males that loitered around outside of the public housing projects, when she went to perform her in-home client assessments.  She felt that she would be O.K., because she was there to help these people.  She felt that she would have less trouble, as the residents came to know her and recognize her.

The residents at the predominantly black public housing projects did begin to recognize Nancy and her vehicle.  A few months after starting her job, Nancy was leaving a gay bar one night downtown with a female friend, when a young black man stepped out of the alley, and broke Nancy’s jaw, knocking her out, in order to then pick up her purse and jog away.

Nancy was knocked out and didn’t know exactly what had happened to her immediately after being mugged.  Her female friend and other witnesses had to tell her what happened.  After having her broken jaw wired shut, and while she was recovering, Nancy began to recall what had happened, and who it might have been that did this to her.

Nancy felt that she was targeted by one of the young black men who loitered outside of the public housing projects when she went there each week to perform her client assessments.  She believed that he had spotted her vehicle parked outside of the gay bar, and that he felt that she would be an easy target to knock out and rob.

After Nancy recovered, and her jaw had healed, this same exact thing happened to her again outside of a bar at night about less than one year later.  Nancy was blond, blue eyed, about 5′-5″, 120 lbs, grew up in a totally non-violent affluent area, a lesbian accompanied only by another girl similar to her, and she was an easily recognizable, easy target for the young black men who lived in public housing, to just run up on, knock her out, and jog away with her purse.  Nancy’s jaw was broken for a second time.

About one year after this second incident had happened, Nancy was either going to or coming from an in-home assessment in the public housing projects, when she stopped at the nearest convenience store to buy a drink.  The young black men that were loitering around this convenience store knew that she worked for the public health care, because she had been coming to the public housing projects for a couple of years now.

When Nancy got back into her car, her briefcase was missing from the back seat, one of the young black men had taken her briefcase when she went inside the convenience store.  Her briefcase had two case files.  Each of the case files had a lot of personal information on two different clients, but one case file had a lot of financial information about a juvenile client, who was due to receive a large amount of money from a settlement when he turned 18 years of age.  This was really horrible that this young man’s file was stolen and this information could get out in the public housing project.

Nancy did not know if she was going to be fired or not when she was telling me this.  The public health care company that she worked for had to have a meeting about it to decide what they were going to do.

Nancy said that after trying to help these people for two years, and having her jaw broken twice, being mugged, and having her briefcase stolen out of the back of her car, she now hated black people.

To be scholarly about this, if Nancy had been performing in-home assessments at a public housing project that was predominantly Native American, she might have been mugged by a Native American public housing resident who recognized her as an easy target.

Or, if Nancy had been performing in-home assessments at a public housing project that was predominantly Syrian Refugees, she might have been mugged by a Syrian Refugee public housing resident who recognized her as an easy target.

It is a common thing, for people to attack or rob someone that they do know, feeling that they are a safer target than someone that they know nothing about.

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