Today in class, which was on Islam, one of my students said

I have a question. Why do they always have to have their own stores? … Like, when you are in Meijer, and you see someone who look like Muslims buying lots and lots of soda, are they taking that back to their own stores, to make money off it? And why – is it because they are sending money back to their relatives? Because … are they here illegally, is that why?

I admit, I didn’t handle this question very well in class. I said something about what assumptions do we make, and how do we interpret what we see around us … and how does that lead us to think what we think … ?

After class, though, I asked her … so, say you were in the store, and you saw someone who looks like you, fair, light hair, buying lots and lots of soda pop, what would you think … ?

I don’t know … big family? Maybe they are having a party … ?

So, what would keep you from thinking the same exact thing about someone who looks … different?

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I am no better, come to that. Because I think I have a pretty good idea of what would keep her from thinking that. Starting with what I imagine the parent shopping with her said when they saw that suspicious soda consumption going down at Meijer.

Although honestly, I think I have more evidence for the plausibility of my inference than she had for hers.

Namely, another one of her comments: that she doesn’t question whether what she believes is true; she just goes by what the people around her say.

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Edvard Munch's The Scream