‘Soap dispensers are racist’ – Conspiracy theory based on misunderstanding of how they work

OPINION – The College Fix:

Students claim soap dispensers are proof of systemic racism. Here’s my rebuttal.

What comes to mind when you hear the term systemic racism? Perhaps Jim Crow-era laws or banks’ redlining policies?

Well, I’ve got a new one you can add to the list: soap dispensers.

Yes, you read that correctly. According to a recent online debate on “systemic racism” put on by the Bruin Republicans that I attended, soap dispensers are proof that white people are systemically racist against black people, according to some of my peers.

But it’s not just any dispensers, mind you. It’s those high-tech automatic ones. The reason is simple. As one UCLA student claimed during the debate, automatic soap dispensers “don’t see her hands” due to the dark pigment of her skin. As another student reiterated, soap dispensers are racist because they force “black and brown bodies” to show their palms — “the only light areas of the skin” — in order to get soap out.

I’m not joking.

First of all, let me just debunk the basis of this claim: for anyone who doesn’t know, the sensors on soap dispensers don’t see human hands; they don’t have eyes. They work using a simple device called a PIR sensor that recognizes infrared light, which is emitted by all people, regardless of color (as long as they’re not dead). Also, I don’t know about you, but those darn things never work for me.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve banged on one to try to get soap out (yet it never occurred to me to blame anti-Semitism as the cause).

But I digress. The point here isn’t how a soap dispenser works. It’s the idea that students at UCLA actually thought that they were designed with white supremacy in mind.

This, and other claims like it, were not unique perspectives shared by one lone student, but rather a world-view that was reiterated and supported by the over 80 students who attended, or more accurately zoom-bombed, the debate.

Wild dispenser-eque claims abounded: from the argument that “white people fed black babies to crocodiles” to “I had a racist teacher who was racist because she asked me where I was from.”

The scary thing about these claims aren’t the ideas themselves, but rather the world-view that informs them: that systemic racism and white supremacy is all around us, and in everyone, and everything, a person encounters.

These students go about their daily lives and when anything goes even slightly wrong, they immediately conclude that white supremacy, systemic racism, or racism is to blame.

They don’t contend that it is some people who are racist to varying degrees. Nor do they allow that there is a difference between real racism and perceived racism.

No, for them the “feeling” that anything at all “negative” is racist, that all “negative” outcomes are from a racist design, and that all “good” ones must be anti-racist, has become a default setting.

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