I do not mean to speak badly of the good intentions of those who espouse this latter-day theory of racism and who sincerely wish to solve a set of problems they believe are both real and incredibly urgent; nor am I to suggest that racism is not a real and dangerous thing that still exists in society, for it plainly is. Nevertheless, I am often struck by how foregone are so many discussions that revolve around racism and racial matters, and how these discussions by their nature demand that a single thing—many if not all people are racist, unconsciously or subconsciously—be acknowledged before they can proceed. Talking about racism demands more often than not an orthodoxy that is startling in its fervency. In the great American courtroom drama 12 Angry Men, Henry Fonda’s Juror #8 remarks on the tribunal of which he is a part: “Everybody sounded so positive…I began to get a peculiar feeling about this trial. I mean, nothing is that positive.” He was eminently right, and his suspicion was entirely correct; it is this kind of skepticism that has grown in me the more I view witness the conventional dogma of the doctrine of widespread “unconscious” racism that today is so prevalent.
The most frequent encounter one has with the “everyone is racist” or “most people are racist” tenet is the one that argues that our “culture” or our “society” has conditioned us to be racist; to use one of the more widespread examples, for instance, it is held that popular perceptions and depictions of black men have created in all of us the tendency to suspect all black men to be criminals, and in many cases, the theory goes, we are not even aware of this tendency, lodged so firmly and deeply in our minds as it is. It is true that the proponents of this theory cannot clearly prove that you contain this invidious judgment within your psyche, but then again, and most importantly, you cannot disprove it. Ideally, the burden of proof would be upon the accuser, as is the case in any competent judicial system; but in instances like these the burden of proof is not even on the accused, because there is no proof to be had—there is only an accusation with which one cannot argue, because one is not even aware of one’s deepest thoughts.