I wrote this post a few years ago and put it on Tumblr. I can’t imagine Tumblr is going to be around much longer and I didn’t want to the post to disappear as the idea presented still has merit. It’s far outside of what I generally write about so forgive that, please. Very much a topic worth addressing, though. I’m copying the original post verbatim and without updates.

I wrote something recently and decided not to share it. I figured it was a bit too controversial. Then, I came across this video from “What Would You Do?”. I’d seen it before — the one filmed right here in NJ where black vandals seem to cause greater concern than white vandals.

At the risk of oversimplifying a terribly complex issue, I think much of the difference between white Americans and black Americans (and many other minorities, honestly) has to do with the use of the term ‘racist’. I may be naive, but I believe most people are good. Most people believe they are good. Good people don’t want to think they could somehow be associated with the bad so they certainly don’t want to be racist. They can’t be racist. They know they’re not racist.

Yes, they may clutch their purse or lock their car doors when they see a black man but that’s a habitual behavior they picked up over the years. The way they question to themselves why the black man is walking/driving through their neighborhood has more to do with the unusualness of it than it does race. Believing that when two people — one black and one white — are arguing that the black person is more likely to be the aggressor is not a racist behavior; it’s a judgement call. None of it can be racist because being racist is an evil thing — like being a child abuser or a sociopath. It calls into question just how good you are at all.

People may question their goodness when it comes to racism but no one asks how good they are when they get an illness. The illness just happens — frequently the result of environmental exposure. To that end, I think we should frame ‘racism’ differently.

Lots of people will balk but I think we would make progress by limiting use of the term ‘racist’ and choosing nomenclature that suggests that some formerly-known-as-racist behaviors should be classified as an ailment. I’m proposing Hyper Melanophobic Dissonance Syndrome — HMDS for short. Hyper Melanophobic suggests a fear of people with higher amounts of melanin. Dissonance implies a lack of consistency in the cognitive state (e.g., I’m a good person who isn’t racist yet I sometimes my actions are based on prejudices). Syndrome point to its existence as an illness.

Yes, I know, HMDS sounds silly and contrived, but I think it’s real. I think we all have prejudices that have been formed over the years as a result of the environment in which we live. In our American environment, most of us know enough white people to make things like the Oklahoma City bombing, the Aurora theater massacre and the Newtown, CT school shooting seem like outliers. Yet, most people know and interact so few black people that the images and stereotypes that appear in the media begin to fit a perpetuated narrative that makes it seem like that’s just how black people are.

The thing about illnesses is that most can be treated and healed — or at least controlled. That’s very different from child abusers, sociopaths and, yes, racists. For those who want to discuss racist/prejudiced behaviors in a serious way, perhaps it really is time to think about HMDS as an environmentally imposed illness — with the ultimate goal freeing people up to accept their illness and to have it managed. That way, hopefully, people can begin being as good as they believe they are.



Talib Morgan

I am The Innovation Pro. I help enterprise teams innovate their customer experiences with emerging tech in an effort to drive customer commitment and growth.