Witnesses Described Him as Brown… Definitely Brown

Chris Rock once said that whenever he hears about a horrible crime on the news, he braces himself for the revelation of the criminal’s race. To paraphrase him (because I can’t find the exact quote), Rock said, “I say to myself, ‘Don’t be black, don’t be black,’ and if the guy turns out to be black, I’m like, ‘Damn it!’”

It works the same way with me. Whenever I hear about a murder, rape, or anything more severe than a hubcap getting swiped, I listen to see if the guy is called Gonzalez or Sanchez or Espinoza. If he is, I’m like, “Damn it!”

There is palpable relief on my part (and probably with other Hispanics) if the guy is black or, even better, white. At least then we don’t have one more dark-skinned guy confirming negative stereotypes.

It’s important to point out, of course, that with the notable exception of the Virginia Tech shooter, the bad guy never seems to be Asian. At least this is true in America, because plenty of Asians in the governments of China and Mynamar and North Korea are absolute motherfuckers. But that’s another story.

In any case, I doubt that white people ever steel themselves for the description of a criminal’s race. It simply doesn’t enter their minds to do so, and for this, I envy them. As the dominant culture, they don’t have to worry about one sick bastard stigmatizing them. This is just one of the miniscule ways in which people of different races perceive the world in different ways. 

The association between race and crime, of course, goes back to our cultural foundations, and it is hard-wired even within minorities. It leads to a million miscommunications, faulty assumptions, and outright attacks.

It can even lead to issues where people are not consciously aware of the dangerous conclusions that they are drawing. In a future post, I will go more in-depth with this concept by looking at racial microaggression (and won’t that be fun!).

In any case, wish me luck. After posting this missive, I’m going to gamble by reading the newspaper. You’ll find me there, flipping through the pages, holding my breath, hoping that Jose or Pedro or Julio hasn’t messed it up today for the rest of us.


1 Response to “Witnesses Described Him as Brown… Definitely Brown”

  1. 1 Eddy
    June 18, 2008 at 2:04 am

    It is unfortunate that I myself was the cause for many other hispanics to feel ashamed. Not because I was poor, had a bad job, or was illegal, but because I continued the vicious cycle of confirming people’s general view of hispanics. Now many years later I fight everyday teaching children to stay away from that life. I thought that it was normal to be able to read and write, but being in jail showed me that many hispanics that end up there can’t. I was lucky enough to learn that teaching others is what I’m good at and really enjoy. I just hope that I can keep enough people away from situations were they confirm the bad stereotypes of hispanics.

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June 2008
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