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Use caution on first impressions

There is an image of someone who dislikes other people for being a different color. Someone who is bitter and actively tries to hurt dark skinned human beings. Most people don’t see themselves like that. They will say things like “I don’t think I’m better than everyone else…” or “I’m not prejudiced but ….” Then they go on to say something uncomplimentary about this person or that group.

Believing two contradictory things at the same time is called Cognitive Dissonance. When it is happening people believe they have no bias. They believe themselves to be better, kinder, smarter, more moral and nicer than the average person. A person will also look for information that reinforces their beliefs.

Examples of this are all around us. Take a trip to a local store. Sometimes at the service desk there will be a long line of young Hispanic residents all holding the same kind of check. I can hear the older white people making unkind remarks and looking at the young guys with anger, suspicion and contempt. The young guys are looking uneasily around wondering why everybody is looking at them like that. The white people have been told that they are being replaced by these Hispanics who live on our taxes. Here was proof they were cashing government checks.

What if these young guys had been white? Would you assume they were cashing a government check? No you would probably know at least one or two of them and assume they are waiting in line to cash their paychecks. Which was in fact what the Hispanics were doing. They all worked at the ice cream factory and got paid on the same day.

The assumption that these young guys are on the dole is given to us by the “news” media. Did you ever see a story on Fox about the young Puerto Rican guys that are supporting their families by working in the factory? Have you ever seen something in the media that talks about them as an important part of the labor force in Chautauqua County? I never have. The act of only reporting about negative things is racist. The welfare model is cast over the Spanish-speaking children because it fits into what we are told about them. It’s a comfortable assumption.

To ask ourselves could this person be standing in line to cash a paycheck as opposed to a welfare check, will cause a very uncomfortable feeling, Cognitive Dissonance. The Hispanics eating our taxes is much more comfortable than the idea these are just a bunch of young kids taking care of their parents and siblings. It’s particularly difficult when the “News” is only reporting one side. Here is where the Fairness Doctrine could help us out.

Starting in 1949 the US Federal Communications Commission required the holders of a broadcast license to present both sides of an issue. The FCC eliminated that policy in 1987. If we had it back we would have more cognitive dissonance but we would also see people for what they are not just what we’re told they are.

The story of these young guys as social parasites is racist. Believing that story without question is also racist.

One part of the solution is not racist at all. These guys are standing in line because they have no banks. From Jan. 1, 1911, to July 1, 1967, the post office acted as a tiny bank.

Accounts were limited to $2,500. People could cash checks deposit small amounts of money and get signature loans for small amounts. Right now if you don’t have a bank account and need to borrow $500 your only choice is a pay day lender. Interest and fees on $500 will amount to more than $2,000 by the time the loan is paid in one year. If the post office acted as a bank, people could stand in line there to cash their checks, make small deposits and get small loans at low interest rates.

Making banking available to everyone benefits everyone. It eliminates a problem all people without money have. It is a non-racist solution.

Marie Tomlinson is a Fredonia resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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