Combining forces: Cognition and Social Construction

We have been addressing the many ways in which “racism is in the air,” as pointed out in one of our readings, “Beyond prejudice: Toward a Sociocultural Psychology and Oppression,” by Adams et al. I am interested in this conception of racism because it touches on a number of ways in which racism exists as a visible and invisible manifestation. Adams et al. discuss how racism is located “outside the architecture of the brain, in the socially constructed environments that provide the external scaffolding for individual subjectivity” (Adams et al., p. 223). I especially like these approaches because they encompass many of the things we have been discussing in class. First of all, the sociocultural perspective challenges many views that think of racism as functioning on only an individual level. Since individuals are part of a larger society, they are affected by the many social interactions and observations they constantly encounter. While many people may think that they think and act solely upon their own accord, they are part of a system that has powerful influences. Racism is something that most people attribute to being an individual occurrence; however, as we have read about and discussed in class, it is actually a social construction. This means that racism exists in the structure of our society through our institutions and social interactions. It affects how individuals think about racism, and therefore how we act in regards to race and racism. The “air” that Adams et al. presents is the information, associations, and understandings that we constantly breath in. This racism “air” has been building up for a very long time, which makes it very hard for us to determine it as wrong, or especially oppressive if we are the one’s benefiting from it.

This lends significantly to our recent discussions about implicit/automatic expressions of or beliefs about racism. Adams et al. suggests that these types of studies are very important to furthering our knowledge about the “roots of racism;” however, we must analyze them from the kind of sociocultural perspective as previously noted. Studies such as the one conducted by Patricia Devine about the automatic and controlled stereotyping are very important to understand the way people may or may not be aware of their prejudices and what this means for the manifestation of prejudice. In order to use the results of these types of studies in meaningful and productive ways, we must consider why these implicit views ans associations exist. The roots of racism do not exist in the mind and therefore cannot be found there. I see it as critical to combine the findings from studies such as Devine’s with discussions and research regarding racism as a social construction to truly understand where racism comes from, where it is going, and how we can work towards eradicating it from our minds and our society.