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This entry is part 31 of 100 in the series Today's Tidbits

I hadn’t heard about the Macklemore thing until I saw a post about it yesterday. (He’s since apologized.)

I was left wondering if a bit part of the problem was that we’re not willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt when they say “I really didn’t know.” (Especially if no other public action we’ve ever seen indicates otherwise.)

“Everybody ought to know this one,” people say. “After all, dehumanization of the Jews nearly led to their total extermination in Europe.”

But everyone doesn’t know it.

I know this for a fact because it was one of my big gripes about Star Wars The Phantom Menace (the critter that owned Anakin and his mother: filthy, big nosed, always looking for a deal and/or a way to screw you over, talking with an obvious Semitic accent… same with the obvious Oriental stereotype at work on the Trade Federation reps). Only about half the people I talked to–and they spanned ages from a decade or more younger than me to a few years older–recognized the stereotype.

And the only reason I recognized it was because I’m interested in how minority populations have been oppressed and demonized over the years. It’s not something I ever had explicitly shown to me (though I can recall some implicit statements, usually in old jokes, which I never really got at the time I heard them).

What should really be the case is: No one should know.

No one should immediately think that a character with a big nose is a jab at the Jews. The simple fact that so many of us still immediately see that means that dehumanization is still alive and well.

It’s definitely along the lines of the “Check your privilege” stuff… where we need to remind ourselves that we’re not always aware of everything that goes on inside our own heads, let alone what forces are at work around us.

I grew up in a surprising diverse area for being in the middle of nowhere. Yet, even with all the talk of racism and prejudice on the news in the 80s and early 90s, I’d never seen it play out until, I think it was my Junior Year of high school. When a buddy of mine, who happened to be black, had his locker vandalized with racial slurs.

We were all just dumbfounded… him especially.

The world got a little less bright and shiny that day. And I know that I became much more aware of a lot of the subtle undertones in a lot of my learned interactions… in a lot of the humor that was out there… in who did and who did not interact with one another.

It was more than a few years after that when I learned more about the hunk of hometown that I lived in. One of the local long-time families was cleaning out an old barn and came across one of the original signs that used to sit at the entrance to the area I lived. It said, if I recall correctly: “No Niggers, No Jews.”

And, yet, I’d gone at least 16 or so years before I saw any of that sentiment in action. So things must change somewhat… or, at least, it’s possible to grow up right in the middle of it and not know… until it hits you square in the face.

That’s not to say that, when it becomes clear there is harm/ridicule intended, decisive action shouldn’t be taken to reprimand the perpetrator… but the first step should always be “Dude, this is how I’m seeing this… is this what you mean?” And if the answer is “Really? No!” then a wee history lesson may be in order. In another generation or two, the stereotype may fade even more.

Now, people who actively live down to the stereotypes about their culture/race/whatever… I have little sympathy for them, as they’re part of the overall problem. Possibly worse than the people what use those stereotypes against the larger group. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

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About Kier

I've been on the web since about 1994. I have a background in a lot of things, including a five year stint as a journalist and over a decade of helping people get their message out to the world.

I write on a number of subjects--everything from relationships to personal development to politics and every day life. I hope you get something worthwhile out of it.

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