An African baby's teeth

I got this on SMS from a friend:

"If a baby is born in Africa, what will be the colour of the baby's teeth?"

The first, reflexive response is to say 'black', and then something clicks in the brain and stops the utterance midway to change it to 'bla......white'.

Tells us something about our attitude to race and racism, doesn't it?

We know Africans have black-coloured skin, and that dominates our thinking. If we're openly racist (and many people quite unabashedly are), wwe might say black without a blink of the eyelid, until people start sneering and giggling at our apparent stupidity. But when we self-correct, then again it is a conscious, very, very conscious attempt. The black changes to white mid-utterance, and the person listening to you gets the message that you are not racist (or atleast trying to give the perception that you aren't). It's an emotional thing.

An emotion that trumps reason. For the original question was a joke, the follow-up answer being:

"Don't think like genius. New born baby doesn't have teeth."

And then you grin stupidly, kicking yourself for not having thought of that.

But how could you? You were battling an emotional problem, battling an old, protective xenophobic instinct, you didn't have the mental bandwidth for rational thought. You won the emotional baattle, and lost the logical one. Which is what makes the joke so powerful!

A reminder that emotion trumps reason. Always.


aceman said…
If you want to learn more about your attitudes towards race, racism, etc. check out

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