A new reality TV show starts tonight, "Black. White." In it, a black family is disguised as whites and a white family as blacks, through the miracle of modern makeup. They then go out in the world with hidden cameras to discover what bias they do -- or don't -- face.
It got me thinking about a different kind of bias: the political kind. Obviously, judging people by political orientation is a world apart from judging by race; you really are looking at the "content of their character" not some superficial trait. On the other hand, if taken to an extreme it would segregate our culture as surely as any other form of discrimination.
We know from projects like BuyBlue.org that someone out there cares about the political preferences of their pork processors and pizzamakers. I myself stopped buying slices from my neighborhood pizzeria when in 2004 they put behind the counter a picture of Bush and Giuliani among the World Trade Center ruins (they took it down last fall, and I went back). So, my soul is stained with the greasy pepperoni-juice of discrimination, too.
What I wanted to ask all of you is, how far do you take the Red-Blue divide?
If you have two nearby dry cleaners, one who had put a sign for Bush in the window in 2004, the other Kerry, who would you use? What if your dry cleaner doesn't advertise his preferences, but you discover he is a Bush supporter in casual conversation one day while picking up your shirts -- do you take your business elsewhere?
Here's a few more scenarios, adapted from three great films about bias:
Gentleman's Agreement: You are interviewing applicants for a job at your company (which does not do any political work). One applicant stands out, but at the end of the interview you begin to discuss politics and learn she supports Bush. Do you hire her?
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: Your daughter comes home with her new fiance. He is a charming young man able to converse thoughtfully on all topics -- and a registered Republican. How do you react?
and the absolutely classic Just One of the Guys: There's a friend you've met recently and have spent more and more time with in recent weeks. You've talked about work, families, hobbies, and get along great. Then one day the talk turns to politics and you realize you are on opposite sides of every issue. Do you keep getting together as often?
"Black. White." will try to show whether our world is still divided by colors. I am just curious if they're looking at all the right hues.