- The communication breakdown here can be illustrated by imagining a coordinate graph on which you plot what you understand to be the racist episodes you experience or hear about during your life. The x-axis represents the passage of time and the y-axis represents the degree of racism of an episode — from someone’s assumption that you’re a valet when you’re parking your own car to the burning of a cross on your lawn. For each experience, you mark a dot.
Over time, the dots accumulate, and you start to see a pattern. You draw a curve that connects the dots and you develop a keen sense of things that happen to you because of your race. The pattern allows you to notice correlations, to make predictions. You are learning from evidence, in part for your self-preservation.
Now imagine someone plotting a graph who encounters such episodes from a more privileged or isolated perspective. Maybe this person hears about them only if they are sensational enough to make the news. He sees evidence of racism only from time to time, and when he does, it tends to be stark and unambiguous — the use of racial slurs, an explicit avowal of hate.
This person’s graph has many fewer dots, with larger spaces between them. There is no curve he is able to draw. No pattern presents itself. Racism seems to him to be a rarity, maybe even invented.
How do I talk with this person and convince him of the pattern I see?