"You have to look at the time in which it happened, and you try to understand why this would occur.Which brings me to my point.
Am I the only one tired of this excuse? Is it valid and I'm just cynical and exhausted? I heard it, years ago, in a World Civ class when we read Heart of Darkness. Some white students were glad to jump on that bandwagon, attribute characters' racism solely to the time in which they lived. The professor wouldn't agree or disagree, he just listened to us debate. Heatedly.
And I've heard it my whole life as a black girl in the South with white friends who felt that they should offer some explanation for their parents' and grandparents' behavior and cold looks towards me. I've heard it as woman who lives in an academic world with mostly white colleagues who think I should understand why a particular professor won't speak to me or doesn't believe I'm all that good a student. And you know what pisses me off? They offer this explanation in a way that's supposed to induce guilt in me. Like, "Elle, you have to understand when and where they come from."
But I still don't like it. Because that excuse makes people less human--as if they don't have choices, can't look deeper, can't question the status quo. It absolves them from their actions in propagating a hurtful, oppressive system. I don't believe anyone is racist simply because of when and where s/he was born--people don't protect and maintain such systems unless they derive some benefit. Thus, my biggest issue with this excuse is that it obscures the fact that born-and-bred racists acknowledge, accept, and perpetuate the privileging of whiteness.
But maybe that's just the little ol' revisionist historian in me...