The first college course I taught was a section on General Psychology in Charleston, SC. The demographics of my class was about half white kids and half black kids. We were covering the chapter on Abnormal Psychology, so I gave what I thought would be a fun weekend assignment. Over the weekend, each student was to engage in an "abnormal" behavior in a public place, then record peoples' responses. Students were given safety instructions NOT to break any laws or institutional rules (example: talking in the library) and they were NOT to engage in any behaviors that might be considered threatening to people or dangerous in any way. I gave a few examples of "safe" abnormal behaviors like talking to self, standing backwards in an elevator, invading personal space in conversation, etc..

Monday morning, I was shocked at the outcome of this assignment. Despite following my safety instructions, almost universally, the black kids got into trouble with law enforcement, store managers, and other authority figures in the community. Apparently, if you are a black kid in Charleston, behaving abnormally results in trouble. Conversely, white kids who behaved abnormally, received the expected responses of laughing, pointing, ignoring, gossiping and avoiding.

Later, when I recount this story to subsequent classes, white students are typically surprised (as I was) at the differences in public responses to black versus white kids. However, black students hearing the story for the first time, know what the outcome will be before I ever say it. One middle aged, African American student, who had children of her own, reported that she raised her kids to keep their hands in full view at all times whenever they were in a store or mall. As a white parent of white children, having my kids keep their hands in full view is something that never would have crossed my mind.

A few years later, an African American colleague of mine, Anna, requested my help with her son who had recently gotten in trouble at school. Her son, John, was an honor roll, high school student, with no history of school behavior problems. However, he got into a conflict with another student and became defiant when the principal interveined. His punishment for defiance was expulsion for the remainder of the year. John subsequently apologized to the principal for talking back, but a hearing was set to confirm expulsion.

Anna had me and several other professionals who were familiar with John to speak on his behalf at the hearing. The Discipline Board consisted of three white, male, principals and one white, female principal. I felt the hearing went very much in John's favor, so I was shocked when the panel ruled to go through with the expulsion. I approached the Chair of the Discipline Board and made the comment that an all white, all principal, and nearly all male panel was inappropriate. The Chair dramatically raised both hands in the air and yelled out, "I knew it! I knew someone just had to play the race card!" Anna was embarrassed that I brought it up. It is very bad form for victims of racism to complain about their mistreatment.

Three months later, I was back before the same Discipline Board in support of another high school kid. On this occasion, another honor roll student with no history of behavior problems, had gotten in big trouble. This second troublemaker was, Suzie, a cute, white, female who broke federal law by distributing marijuana brownies to her classmates. The legal penalty for this act is up to 5 years in prison and up to $250,000 fine. Again, the hearing seemed to go well for the student. The ruling? She was told never to do that again and was allowed to return to school the next day.

The Race Card: A term invented by bigots. It is used to shut down victims of bigotry.

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Comment by Edward Teach on May 31, 2014 at 4:26pm

Many thanks to Luara, jay H, and Ruth Anthony-Gardner for good feedback

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on May 4, 2014 at 4:13pm

A good post. Thanks. I'll remember.

The Race Card: A term invented by bigots. It is used to shut down victims of bigotry.

Comment by jay H on May 4, 2014 at 3:17pm

It gets fairly complicated. Gender is involved, culture is involved.

It's hard for a black man to get a cab ride in many cities at night, but black cabbies are just as likely to look the other way as white cabbies. Black women have a far less problem, so it's not purely race.

It's a  tough call, no legitimate rider should be discriminated against but cabbies (of any race) also know statistically what is happening to their fellow drivers. They're caught in a hell of a situation.

Comment by Luara on April 27, 2014 at 3:21pm

Any kind of vulnerability or pain can be exploited.  I saw a Youtube video about a black con artist who was (or pretended to be) a preacher.  He gathered lots of money from pastors of black churches, promising a huge return on their investment, with some story about corporations giving money so they could pass as nonprofit. 

So lots of these pastors gave him money.  Some of them who really couldn't afford it, drove long distances by car to his meetings, etc. etc. 

This guy was very rich for awhile on all these donations, and he spent it on all sorts of luxuries.  Finally a federal prosecutor nailed him. 

One might ask, how could these pastors fall for such a ridiculous scheme (he promised giant returns). 

But I think they saw this black preacher as one of their own.  And the black church probably functions as a refuge against both the crime in poor neighborhoods and the constant bombardment with the stereotypes, bad treatment by white people etc. in the secular world. 

So if you have a refuge against adversity, you don't want to think that refuge will also betray you.  The black preacher was firmly a Good Man in their minds. 

Until slowly the lies became so threadbare they fell off, to reveal the naked and painful truth. 

Comment by Shawn on April 27, 2014 at 12:26pm

A Panel of white supremacists probably. There are white supremacists who walk amoung us in secret. Keep an eye out for them.

Comment by Michael Penn on April 27, 2014 at 10:35am

My pleasure to have been here, Edward. I agree with your posting totally.

Comment by Edward Teach on April 27, 2014 at 10:21am

Many thanks to Luara, Michael Penn, Joan Denoo, B Fletcher, and KH KY. Interesting discussion. My cousin called out profiteers like Al Sharpton as being at fault. I think of Sharpton as I do televangelists, profiting from the suffering of others.  I just hate for a very real, very serious issue like racism gets marginalized every time someone draws attention to it by using a catchphrase like "race card." A guy with no eyes gets lost trying to find your house, "There he goes again, playing the blind card." A student is late for class because the campus is not wheelchair accessible, "There she goes again, playing the paraplegic card." How shitty is that? None of the black people described in my post used the "black card." I used it, because they were clear victims of injustice. And, it isn't a "card," it is people being treated unfairly for no fault of their own.

Comment by Luara on April 26, 2014 at 10:40pm

My white "friends"  keep complaining about blacks in a bad way

I note you live in Missouri. I live in a little lefty town in upstate New York and white people here don't make racist comments, except possibly in private after you know them. Overt racism isn't socially acceptable. The white people here are anxious to have the "proper attitude" towards black people, they are worried about seeming racist.  So there's a lot of artificiality and tension around black people, and it must be a challenge for a black person to deal with this daily with equanimity. 

There are a lot of regional cultural differences around race, it seems.

Comment by Michael Penn on April 26, 2014 at 3:41pm

Edward, I think your examples in your posting pretty much sum it up every time. My white "friends"  keep complaining about blacks in a bad way, and when I say it is all racist, they claim they are not racist! For that matter, most of them know little about black people and they do not have black friends. It makes you wonder where their opinions and their information comes from. I'm a loner but I'm white and married to a black woman now over 9 years.

Comment by Luara on April 26, 2014 at 3:17pm

That's very disheartening.  No wonder a lot of black people are bitter.  I was thinking of that same video with different looking people doing suspicious things to a bicycle, reading this. 

Sometimes the "race card" IS played by blacks, though - for example in the OJ Simpson murder trial.  There was a lot of forensic evidence against him, so the defense lawyer Johnny Cochran theorized that the Los Angeles police dept. had fabricated the evidence because of their racism.  He well knew that this was a good strategy with the mostly black jury. 

It is hard when you know there is prejudice - but you never know when exactly it's happening.  I've experienced this as a woman.  One doesn't want to come out and say that someone is acting in a sexist way.  It will just result in an accusation of being oversensitive or some other kind of denial. 

Yet you know damn well it happens a lot.  It's like sexism is part of the atmosphere.

I once overheard a conversation my boss at a job was having with someone else.  They mentioned me, and my boss said "It's easy to underestimate her, and she doesn't appreciate it". 

The guy he was talking with said "Oh yeah?" as if that were something ugly. 

My boss said "Well, why should she???" 

That stuck with me, because it's true and I had never noticed that about myself. 

A lot of me "being easy to underestimate" is because of me being a woman.  My boss and the guy talking with him didn't mention sexism though.  Racism and sexism are "in the air".  But VERY rarely honestly discussed. 



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