I’m a white atheist from Seattle, living in Silicon Valley. I grew up in the 1970’s with a mother who worked on Seattle school integration.
I’m not prejudiced, in the sense of thinking negatively about blacks. I’m biased, though. I think I know more about blacks than any other group, including my own. I have one black friend, and we became friends because he made the effort.
He saw promise in my project, PeopleCount.org, and his, SVADInc.org. I never make such efforts- it’s just not a skill- but I think in the almost-40 years of my adult life, only one other person has made such an effort. I’ve made a few friends through proximity and working together, but I think only two people, outside of dating, have overcome my shy habits to build a relationship…
I’m aware of the racial mix of my neighborhood- I walk my dog often- and I only know of one black home owner. There are lots of people from various parts of India and Asia and Europe and the middle-east. But no blacks, except for workers. And most of the Latinos are gardeners, house-cleaners and other kinds of workers, as well.
I’ve had a few conversations about racial problems. At the last big company I worked at, I heard some Indian groups didn’t like working with Asians and vice versa. Many did work together, but some groups were happier working in more of a familiar culture. Though I heard rumors that some took it as racist or attributed the differences to race.
Language brings us together, and lets us connect. And meanings floating in our heads in language continue to challenge us.
I have a practice, when out walking. I’ll notice people as the characters they seem to be, an old white woman, a Chinese man and his dog, a Sikh woman and her daughter. I’ll look at the naive biased associations my brain gives me. And then I’ll look again, imagining the souls are switched. That the character I imagined for the old woman is really the man’s character. And the Chinese man’s character is really the Sikh woman’s.
It shows me how presumptuous and biased a being with a brain is. We size people up so quickly, then feel it’s true. It’s just the way we are.
Really, we know nothing until we know someone well. And when we know them well, we still know very little about them.