As an example, it seems fitting to invoke the Kitty Genovese case. On the morning of March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese was sexually assaulted and murdered over the course of half an hour - outside of her Queens, NY apartment complex. In addition, no fewer than 38 of her neighbors actually saw the attack or heard her screams. Over the course of the half hour her assailant left twice, frightened that the neighbors were going to intervene. However, upon seeing that no one stepped outside to help Kitty, he resumed his violent attack. How is it that scores of people could witness a gruesome assault and yet do nothing to help? The answer is a unique effect called the Bystander Apathy Effect , in which bystanders do not react because of a few major factors. The first factor is that often bystanders take their cue from others around them, and thus do not act differently. Another factor for the apathetic bystander is a basic feeling of diffusion of responsibility, in which a given individual feels that since there are so many people to help, his personal aid is not required (and thus not given). Obviously, these two factors culminated in a gruesome manner for Kitty; however I believe that these factors are also at work aiding tacit racism which still carries on today.
The apathy of bystanders greatly reminds me of an idea which has gotten so big in America, that of a "post-racial" country. This is because of some good spinning by corporate media and playing up of various buzzwords. I believe that NeNe's article shows exactly why it is that racism is so thorny: it doesn't negatively affect most people, and certainly not to the extent that something would actually be done about it. Those who benefit from white privilege have no real inclination or incentive to step in and help out by being vocal about racial issues. People espousing racist views who happen to be white are often simply written off as "rough around the edges" or a bit crude, but the truth is that the comments which people are comfortable enough to make in public are often only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to racial views. And yet there is no general push by the "good and decent" of America to clear up these misconceptions about race and attempt to keep an open dialogue about it. It is quite interesting that things such as genuine race relations are never on party platforms, rarely talked about in schools, and probably can't even be clearly articulated because there is a barrier of convenience which has been built up around the topic. This is the bystander apathy effect, as applied to a people in denial about what truly goes on in America.