One day last year Ninja came home from school with a surprising idea, planted by a time-travel video about what the modern world might be like if Martin Luther King Jr. hadn’t made his contributions. He told me that without MLK, people would have spent so much time being racist that they wouldn’t have had time to invent the computer.
I didn’t want to quibble about the historical timeline by noting that some developments in early computing were happening decades before the main thrust of the civil rights movement.
I did, and still do, want to pursue this idea of the way our biases and shortcomings might affect other aspects of our lives. The idea Ninja was pondering, though, that racism takes up a lot of time that would otherwise be available for something more productive, is a little peculiar. Is bias just a time suck?
I understand that being actively anti-anything can be time-consuming. Think of all the hours spent by Wile E. Coyote trying to trap or crush or blow up the Roadrunner. In a typical plot, he might have to order the equipment and/or supplies from ACME whatever-it-is Company, then spend time digging the hole or stringing the fuse or painting the tunnel mouth onto the side of the mountain. Then when the Roadrunner (BEEP BEEP) came through without a scratch, the whole cycle would begin again–apparently, a full-time job.
On the other hand, slighting people or being rude doesn’t typically take up much time. It doesn’t feel like this is the right angle from which to approach the issue. “Don’t be Racist–It’s so Time-Consuming!” isn’t a very compelling slogan.
So let’s say you had to make a case against racism or bigotry based not on the harm that such attitudes do to others but focusing first on the downsides for the actor (and at some point we are all that actor, aren’t we?). What would you say are the worst consequences? Is it the soul cramping, the tunnel vision, the eroding of the spirit, the impoverishment of one’s point of view? There’s a long list to choose from.
While being prejudiced doesn’t take up much time as the clock ticks, it’s safe to say that it can certainly slow us down in terms of personal progress. Wouldn’t it be in our best interests to work on cutting loose our biases, whatever they are, and eliminating their drag?
It’s worth thinking about.
[Images:NASA via Gizmodo, Wikipedia]