Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist

Moya and Markus argue Americans commonly revert to eight basic conversations when talking about race or ethnicity and that hinder productive discussions (“learning conversations”). “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” is conversation number three.  This summary is from a press release about Moya and Markus’s book Doing Race and can be found both at EON and Reuters. A more complete version of the conversation is on page 7 of Doing Race or you can watch a video of the presentation here: http://vimeo.com/13468483.

Summary of the “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” Conversation:

A common flaw among all eight conversations, Moya and Markus found, is that the reasoning behind each one is incomplete. In other words, each lacks the larger context within which the phenomenon being discussed is taking place. For example, Professor Markus pointed out that the “Everyone’s a little bit racist” conversation “usually just stops there, with that observation.” Unless people go on to ask “what the origins and effects of different kinds of racism might be, then the conversation ends up being a kind of cop-out. It basically ignores the fact that social, political, and economic power is unequally distributed among different racial groups, and fails to consider ways of rectifying the pernicious effects of ongoing racism.”

Like stereotypes, Professor Moya maintains, “These eight conversations give us the illusion of understanding, but they are narrowly based on limited, flawed, and of course, unstated assumptions.” In addition, she explained, “These conversations are pervasive, they are difficult to change and they have powerful consequences for our actions.” (EON)


Exercise:

Moya and Markus provide the example of the Avenue Q song “Everyone’s a little bit racist” as an example of this conversation.  What is the point of this song?  Read the comments.  Does everyone share your view of what the song means? What role does humor play in ending the conversation?  Can humor also be used to start conversations? (If so, give an example.)

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