Saturday Self Evaluation

Quaker schools, ultra-liberal parents, world travel, and Oberlin taught me to think of "prejudice" as a dirty word. This little sheltered idealistic upbringing has had its challenges, and accusations of being a pinko commie have followed too.
Testing my own prized (but admittedly self-awarded) open-mindedness has occupied some of my Saturday afternoon this weekend: www.projectimplicit.com is run out of Harvard and tests your possibly unconscious prejudices across a variety of topics.
Today I learned that I favor the young over the old. And I am religiously neutral: "Your data suggest little to no automatic preference between Other Religions and Judaism." Perhaps I shy away from all types of pontification.
As part of this study, researchers found that Americans of all races, classes, and ages relate black faces to negative words, even some African Americans. Try as we might, does the culture and the prejudice around us seep in? Will you know when you're being racist?
One day I was walking down the street in Center City Philadelphia, at a brisk clip on my way to catch my train home after the gym. A black man in a beige jacket loomed suddenly close up in front of my face, "Excuse me," he began. "Sorry, no" I said as I dodged away and kept walking. "You think I'm homeless?!" he yelled after me. Yeah, I did. People asking the time don't usually get within a foot's distance of your face. But I was wrong.
The fair counterpoint might be riding the trolley home with Hugh and Juliet on Christmas eve two years ago. A little black girl sat next to her mother across the aisle from me. Feeling full of Christmas cheer, when I saw her looking my way I gave her a little smile. She turned to her mother and said loudly, "You know what, Mom? I hate white people." Her mom gave her a prompt little slap of the hand. Guess she's well on her way to a more open-minded upbringing, so she can question herself later in life?

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