[image description: A painted porcelain bust of a peevish red haired boy with glowing red eyes wearing a crisp suit is falling to the tiled floor. His shadow presages his imminent crash. Text reads “Jeffrey ‘Jefe’ Manchilde III, Small God of White Fragility, 235”]
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No one ever had to tell him that he was better than everyone else around him. He figured that out on his own. He watched his parents (do gods have parents? Or do they have the idea that they must have had parents, in order to be full and realized individuals in their own right?) as they interacted with both the help and the people around them, listened to their stories of a golden, honey-tinted history that featured white inventors, white philosophers, white explorers taming a world that had been ripe and ready for their arrival, and he took all those lessons at face value. He believed them.
There is a thing that happens to everyone in this world, called “Conservatism Bias,” which causes the first thing you or anyone else hears about a topic to be the one you are most likely to believe. Even when someone can prove it false. Even when you know you ought to know better. Even when you know on some level that the “facts” as you know them are false, the comfort of that initial understanding will return again and again, reasserting itself.
So as our little Jefe grew and moved out into the world, along with all the other children who’d been told, either explicitly or through inference, that the color of their skin made them better than everyone else around them, he believed it. It was the first thing he had learned, and so it must be true. If anyone who wasn’t his equal or better got something he wanted, they must have cheated; if they had something he couldn’t get, they must have stolen it unfairly. And so it went, false but fervent, and so he kept believing.
Conservatism bias is one of the many reasons childhood education is so important. Without it, children can grow up believing that accidents of birth make them better than everyone around them, and enter the world entirely unprepared to deal with its realities or its complexities. Jeffrey will never be able to be a full part of a vibrant community, being too busy rejecting its wonders and screaming over his own imagined abuses to enjoy what’s offered to him.
One day, Jeffrey will break.
Don’t be a Jeffrey.