Chapter 12: Icebergs
She compares this knowledge to an iceberg – the little we can see above the surface, the mass beneath, and the unlikelihood that the surface winds will change the direction.
“One of the basic beliefs I adopted was the idea that in America people failed or succeeded based on individual skill and effort. Therefore, logic told me, the people who succeeded most must have superior skill and have exerted extra effort…I assumed white people were in charge because they were more capable.”
“Without understanding the white Europeans’ role in contrast to the indigenous people’s role, I couldn’t connect my family’s outcomes to the advantages gained by being members of the dominant group. Nor could I connect my advantage to the [native’] people’s disadvantage”
The author then goes on to relate how one book, based more in opinion than science, became the baseline for how we view African Americans in this country – and how that snowballs into broad (and broadly indefensible) belief systems.
“No matter what happens above the waterline, little will change until our belief systems get a twenty-first-century tune-up.”
And that’s the heart of it, isn’t it? What we think we know is based on a history written by the victors. And until the core narrative is altered, all the things that flow from it remain the same.
The Study Question
Think of a time you grossly misinterpreted a person (of any race) or situation. What information was missing that allowed you to draw incorrect conclusions? What in your belief system contributed to your misinterpretation?
Gosh, just one? The key thing – in every example I can think of – is already identified in the question: Missing Information. It comes down to taking the time to ask the questions and really understand. It’s about the assumptions we make and the things we don’t think to ask.
Isn’t it always?