Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What Would You Do?

i'm watching these videos on youtube (yes, youtube has replaced my television) of the Dateline series 'What Would You Do?' about, pretty much social experiments in which Dateline sets up scenarios regarding racism, stereotypes, sexism, etc. to see what different people will do. usually they find things and record people saying things that are shocking, but shouldn't be. racism exists, so why is it shocking to hear someone say something like "don't talk to me. i don't speak Mexican."?

i like watching them and imagining what i'd do in these situations. what would i do if a store clerk was being blatantly racist and singling out a black woman to be searched while making remarks about her "type"? usually, my actions and words are calculated, sometimes hesitant depending on the situation. in one of these situations, my words and actions might be too shocked to say anything. if i accuse one of these people of being racist, i could a) be blowing something out of proportion in a context i may not be aware of (for example, if the person i posit as the victim threw racial epithets at the person i've posited as the offender prior to me entering the scene), b) not know how to truly confront racism and end up enforcing stereotypes as opposed to educating the offender on how and why they're in the wrong (for example, if instead to talking to the offender about their behavior, i go upside their head, then it just enforces these stereotypes that we're violent and angry all the time), or c) put myself in real danger (these Dateline experiments were done in well populated cities with security guards and a camera crew standing around had anything gone awry. but had this been say....southern Mississippi? thats almost suicide).

maybe after watching these, it'll better equip me to handle them in real life. i want to be the guy in this video with the West Indian accent that tells that Realtor "YOUR BEHAVIOR IS UNACCEPTABLE!!". but i'd bitch-slap her at the end and then raise Johnny Cochran from the grave so he can represent me in a lawsuit against her.

my only criticism of the show, however, is that i don't think it fully highlights the bigger issues of racism and classism in this country. they have a psychologist (i think) who basically explains people's various reactions and why they do them. he doesn't give historical reasons for these stereotypes or opinions, or statistics on the amount of these situations that turn violent, or ways in which the American government encourages the type of racism we see in the video i posted above.
why exactly is someone who has been oppressed in so many ways (the black man) aiding in the owner's blatantly racist actions (personally, i think he and many other people of color in this country target immigrants in order to make themselves feel included in a country that has excluded them in ways they may not even realize and to make themselves feel superior by making someone else feel inferior. by telling these two men to leave he was really saying to the racist clerk "hey, i'm one of you, see? i really am an American. please, approve of me. please, accept me." he is looking for acceptance from white people, even if it means having to put down one of his brothers in the process; trying to assimilate)?
why are people shocked at the thought of racism?
why doesn't Dateline show how shying away from conversations on racism, classism, etc. adds to more social duress and discriminatory laws as well as violence?

i think the next experiment regarding racism should have to do with a close conversation between, three somewhat new friends, in which one of them says something racist. there wouldn't be room to say "i'm cancelling my order and refuse to eat here anymore..." or "i'm sorry, Muhammad and Amina, this realtor is a bitch and our neighborhood is accepting of all religions...". so then, what happens then? isn't that where we should be battling them? in conversations in which it's just us five or six black family members and someone says something about how black gay men should be stoned to death? in conversations in which it's just us unilingual english-speaking Americans and someone makes a joke about the "illegals"? those would be the critical experiments, i think.

in any case, Dateline is the only show i know of that does experiments like these, so, kudos.

comment. think. criticize. converse.

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