Choosing to be Racist?

This week, we were asked to complete two IAT’s. One that measured our level of association between Blacks and weapons and another the measured ones preference of Blacks versus Whites. I am not skeptical of the tests accuracy. I believe that it can truly measure ones implicit feelings; however, I do question whether these feelings can ever be truly implicit. I believe that the mind is a powerful thing, and that if an individual wants to believe he or she holds certain values, they can convince themselves of it. I do not however think that within an individual, they do not doubt their wanted behaviors. I have a hard time believing that someone can be unaware of their biases/associations when asked directly if such biases/associations exist. They may not know that their bias/association is as strong as a test may show; however, I feel that they must be aware of it. Can someone be truly unaware of his or her biases?

This further stimulates my question of whether someone can choose what he or she makes associations with. If we are aware of the associations we are making, do we have the power to change them? This would relate to the possibility of eliminating racism. From my understanding, the concept that is believed to be most effective in reducing racism is knowledge. Yet if the individual must be to some extent of their biases and associations, then they should have the power to work to change such biases. If this is true then racism isn’t simply and construct of society, but a choice to which each individual is entitled. Are we choosing to be racist?

I believe many people would respond to this by saying “No, we do not choose to be racist or prejudice” which I could also argue, as it does not seem as though we are able to complete an IAT and achieve the scores that we wish to. Because of this I feel as though not only is racism not a choice, it is not something in which we can change consciously. This therefore enforces a concept by which the individual must come in contact with a crisis that affects the individual personally and changes his or hers stage of identity.

So my biggest question for everyone, is if our biases and associations are made by choice. Do we choose to have biases? Can we choose not to be racist even if we already behave in a manor that is not racist? Do we ever truly not know of the biases we have?

2 thoughts on “Choosing to be Racist?

  1. I will take the politicians way out and say I believe both are accurate. I think we all have all learned our associations based on our individual backgrounds. The choice is what we do with the knowledge once our eyes have been opened.

  2. This is really interesting. Personally, I don’t think we have a choice. I think that what we learn as children in addition to what we see on the media shapes the way we think. We have automatic thoughts when we see individuals and these stigmas are at the front of our minds. This is the reason that racism is so hard to combat in the first place: we don’t choose to believe the things we believe or feel the things we feel.

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