On Sunday night, after many hours spent driving home from the bassackwards state of Tennessee, I sat down to watch television for a moment before spending the last few waning hours of the day reading a book. Usually I watch 60 Minutes or perhaps flip through the movie channels looking for something interesting to watch, but on this particular Sunday I happened to stop on NBC and caught a glimpse of, what I assumed to be, a Dateline Special. What made me stop my channel flipping was one single word: Race.
Now that word alone, uttered for the umpteenth time by yet another individual who was not a person of colour and with a tone of authority, would be enough to elicit a roll of the eyes and a protracted sigh as I immediately turned to another channel. However, this time I found myself curious enough to abstain from my usual response and watched as a group of parents talked with the reporter about how they didn’t believe their child was racist, and how they raised them better than that. The parents were a rather diverse group overall, but, of course, the majority of them were white. Now of course their claims didn’t surprise me (Nothing is worse than being called or identified as “racist” to many individuals sans colour), but what did catch me off guard was what I saw next.
Much like the show What Would You Do?, Dateline had created a “talent audition” for a fictional show called “Oh Say Can You Sing” (Something of an X-Factor/American Idol for Teens spin off), and, utilizing a diverse group of actors, set about testing whether or not the claims of the parents stood up in the face of reality when their children, unassuming and without knowledge that they were being tested, were placed in a situation in which their prejudices would be called into question. Now, to be honest, I had a good assumption of how things would turn out, but I watched anyway as I wished to see how the claims of “Racism and Prejudice are Dwindling Amongst America’s Youth” held up, at least as it pertained to these chosen individuals.
Unsurprisingly, at least to me, when placed into situations where race and prejudice became a factor, most of the white female teenagers unmasked their thinly veiled prejudices. One girl simply laughed and agreed when one of the actors, a young woman wearing a hijab, was called a number of things including a terrorist. Another in another staged test, also laughing and agreeing with the racist and anti-immigrant sentiments voiced by one of the actors, voted off the Latino actor because he “wasn’t really American.” And yet another did the same, and even had the audacity to begin crying “White Woman Tears” (TM) when she found out she was on television being tested, and had let her racist flag fly proud and true in front of millions of Americans (The majority of whom are probably no different from her really).
Of course the “Racism Counselor” (Or whatever the heck she was), found obtuse ways to redeem the girls or shifted the blame to society as a whole rather than holding the individual at all responsible. Of course I don’t disagree with the sentiment that society plays a role in prejudice and racism, however I do disagree with the notion that these children and their parents are limited in their blame and personal responsibility. And I say of course the racism counselor obfuscated things, because, as usual, the person presented as an authority on these issues was a person sans colour.
Now this isn’t to suggest that the white females were the only ones who displayed prejudice/racism (there was a young black girl who laughed right along when one of the actors spoke of the Latino actor in a derogatory manner), but that is to say that, out of all the children presented, the white female teenagers overwhelmingly showed themselves to be racist and prejudiced against others.
In short, My Kid Would Never presented for all to see what may be the true nature of America’s youth, and if this truth is the future then we haven’t, as I have long believed, come very far at all.
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