Equality as vicious bias

Opinion Column: Doubt

I do not like talking about race. Why? Because it makes me uncomfortable. Why? Because it makes you uncomfortable. Why? Because race, you maintain, does not exist. Talking about race, you continue, creates a problem: The problem of talking about race and making you uncomfortable. And why is this is a problem? Because you said it was.

A dominating form of rhetoric is the "colorblind" position: Race is a construct and therefore cannot be a problem. It follows, then, that all are equal. As 21st century educated beings, we know this. Our ancestors fought hard to solve the race problem. We insult them by reviving it. As such, one creates the race problem — pitting ourselves against one another, citing fantastical race inequality, proposing that everyone is equal. I invite holders of the above position to doubt. I will now politely relay my reasons for doing so. In lieu of making a claim, I will give an illustration.

Imagine the most attractive person you can think of. Now, imagine the most hideous person you can think of. Would you treat them both to a night on the Raritan? Your doing so seems to me, dubious. This, disparity in treatment, is what we call “bias.”

Race, in the objective/metaphysical sense, does not exist. Bias, however, does. Furthermore, bias is an inherent part of human biology. As such one ought not be ashamed to admit they are indeed biased. Numerous studies have highlighted bias in infants, as to what faces they prefer to stare at. The results are that they enjoy the faces which approach the average of the faces they have seen in their lifetime. These faces corresponded with those that we call “attractive.” Hence, a layman’s definition of bias can be defined as preference toward the familiar.

So when one is a member of a dominant tribe (if you hold disdain for the term “race”), one will, according to human biology, be treated preferably to one resembling a minority tribe. Hence, majority persons are treated preferably to minorities. Now, add negative stereotypes stemming from an instinctual distrust of a minority caste.

These minorities — black people for our purposes — will be perceived even more disparagingly. We then have a circular and potentially systemic train of bias.

To give an illustration, imagine an ugly child. This child is instinctively distrusted by his classmates. He looks different. He is an anomaly, and thereby, according to the children's instincts, demands distrust. Instinctive distrust leads to one child’s fabricating a story about the ugly child “having cooties.” The child’s classmates accept this narrative, and feel as though they have further reason to distrust the ugly child. He is excluded and bullied. He tries to express his sorrow and desire to be treated fairly. However, he is ignored and the treatment is warranted, because the child “has cooties.” This is what we call vicious bias.

In America, black people are the ugly child. The colorblind position is, essentially, “cooties.”

The idea that we are all equal and that all is possible via hard work denies basic biology. Black people do not have equality, as equality, in general, is contradictory. I am not you, I cannot be you, therefore, I am not treated as though I were you. As such, we are not equal. The disjunction between personage exists en masse. It follows then, that one, as a rational being, interacts differently with different people and is necessarily biased to some degree. The statistics in respect to disproportionate police killings, incarceration rates and exclusion from the work force among black people is evidence of negative and systemic black bias in America. The colorblind position is a brute, vicious form of this bias.

To again explain one of the colorblind argument’s main premises: Equal opportunity, or the endless capacity for hard work to realize one’s dreams, regardless of personage. Assume that you are a black person, you would have received whatever education and parenting you currently possess, making yourself capable of changing your position in life.

You assume that, if black, you would obviously receive the education you find most fundamental to being an American, to being a human.

This is not the case.

To explain, a black kid in a ghetto cannot go to your elementary school to receive your primary school education, because he is a black kid in a ghetto. He is not you. He is, here, clearly disadvantaged by comparison, at the most basic educational level. It is therefore impossible to posit his having “equal opportunity.” He doesn’t even have a basic education. We can take said example as representative for black people, in general. Black people do try to work hard and change their lives, but they are ill-equipped succeed in their attempts. Hence their comparatively tremendous rates of incarceration, unemployment, murders and low general intelligence levels. To respond to this horror of an existence with an appeal to “equal opportunity” and “personal responsibility” is to, at once deny, defend and continue America’s history of brute, systematic torture. To maintain the colorblind position, one actively silences and contradicts the existence of all black Americans. To do so, one must be viciously biased.

Finally, it is logically incoherent to posit black people as having equality, while still demanding it. If this was not the case, however, and neither cognitive bias nor difference in societal rank, at birth, had the capacity to create insurmountable difficulties, one would have to posit that black people suffer from a sort of mass retardation: An inexplicable laziness, greed and stupidity. Or, in other words, “cooties.” One would be wise to consider how plausible said scenario is. One might also consider the possibility that one is, by no fault of one’s own, biased.

Radcliffe Bent is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in English and philosophy. His column, "Doubt," runs on alternate Tuesdays. 

* This column was previously titled "Black people unnecessarily treated like child with cooties"

Radcliffe Bent

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