But he was wrong. Just like individual racism - and institutional racism and subtle racism -unconscious racism really does exist. And my boss Rosemary DePaolo provides a good example of what it means to be an “unconscious racist.”
My discovery of Rosemary’s unconscious racism would never have been made had a young black staff member not complained to me about one of her policies – a policy born of her false belief that she is an anointed queen, not a university president. It seems the young black man was required to enter by the back door when he made a service call to Rosemary’s mansion where she lives free of charge (the free mansion is one example of welfare reform that was overlooked in the 1990s). He was told that had he been a professor, the chancellor would consent to an entrance through the front door. But, unfortunately for him, staffers must enter through the back door.Since the staffers entering through the back door are disproportionately black and the professors entering through the front door are disproportionately white there is a clear pattern of racial discrimination. And since Rosemary is a liberal, she can’t argue the non-existence of unconscious racism. And if unconscious racism exists, the argument that she “did mean to” implement a discriminatory system is irrelevant.
Even more compelling examples of unconscious racism can be found within the halls of academia. And there is no better place to look for them than in a Department of Sociology where the people who pledge their lives to the eradication of bigotry are perhaps the most intolerant and bigoted segment of our society. And, unlike the Klansmen, they cannot claim a lack of education as a defense.
Some years ago, one of my so-called colleagues heard me tell the story of a drug raid I went on in a working class neighborhood in Wilmington. I approached a crack house with a law enforcement officer who had instructed me to purchase one crack rock from a man in a wheelchair who was on parole. Just before we got inside, someone drove up to buy some drugs. We circled the block until the transaction was completed.