The other day, a student asked me the meaning of the term “unconscious racism.” As a conservative Christian, he was tired of all the expanded definitions and examples of racism proffered by the left in order to obscure the decline of real racism in America. He saw this as a lame attempt to market socialistic solutions by exaggerating social problems.
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.Halfway around the block we decided to cut through two houses and watch the place for a few moments before entering. When we did so, we were able to see two lookouts jumping out of a tree that we had been standing under just a few minutes before. They were young and did their jobs poorly. The second they realized there was about to be a bust, they ran towards their homes in the nearby projects.
When the coast was clear we went inside. Before long, the drug agent was given consent to search the parolee’s room. Needless to say, he was in possession of numerous crack pipes, some used recently. And so the agent cut a deal.
In order to be spared from a trip back to prison the parolee had to provide information leading to a bigger catch before the evening ended. Because of the constant influx of prostitutes, users, and other dealers that wasn’t hard to do. In fact, it was a small time heroin dealer – a friend of the parolee’s - that intervened and led the agent to an amount of heroin sufficient to divert his attention from the handicapped felon.
I had hoped it would only be a few minutes that I was left there in the crack house while the agent went to check out the lead. But I sat through an entire HBO movie while the crack heads drank and smoked everything in sight – but not any crack as they assumed I was an agent. I couldn’t figure out how they managed to pay the cable bill while the doors were falling off the hinges and the cockroaches crawled up the walls.
But the suggestion that we were racists wrongly targeting the crack addict suffered a fatal flaw; namely, that the addict was white. At no point in the story did I mention the man’s race. But my “colleague” heard the word “crack” and assumed – incorrectly assumed – that all crack addicts are black.
So it seems that unconscious racism is not just real but thriving on the campus of UNCW. Whether you’re talking about the Chancellor or just a tenured professor, the roots of racism run deep. And its occasional revelation does nothing to diminish the arrogance of the unconscious racist. It only increases his guilt and his zeal to engage in racial Scapegoating.
And, once the cat is out of the bag, the rest is done with full and conscious awareness.