I was really going to try to make an effort not to write negatively (or “hate on” as this originally read) my parents for the rest of the semester. I have already hit my father pretty hard in my journal, and, honestly, my parents are getting me through one of the toughest transitions of my life. My parents are the best parents a person could ask for, so hope this does not come off as me hating them.
So, as many of you may know, I am part of an all male music group here on campus. My involvement in this group has been a source of laughter, an immense amount of fun, and, of late, a really interesting focus group of people to think about from a social justice standpoint.
The group, when it comes down to it, are really a social experiment in a pietri dish. This experiment is one that is really important: what happens when you put 17 males in a room. The vast majority of these males are white and extremely privileged. People love to watch these males perform, and thus they, well…we, have a large platform to display our privilege.
So, as some of you may or may not know, I tend to dabble in the world of theatre here at Muhlenberg College. My dabbling in this world has led me to a lot of wonderful friends, valuable learning experiences, and, really, just a lot of great times. Of late, however, it has provided me with an interesting window into the world of contemporary racism.
Let’s start with an honest fact: the world of theatre has been littered with racism since the dawn of its existence. From the concept of “minstrel shows” to the prevalence white performers performing in black face the old world of theatre has not been particularly friendly to non-white members of society. Now, of course, we have moved into an age where, overt, old-fashioned racism is no longer acceptable. This rule, to an extant, has applied to the world of musical theatre. In fact, many contemporary works of theatre, even musical theatre, have focused on racial issues and the problems they have caused within society. This summer, Muhlenberg College’s Summer Music Theatre program (MSMT for short), is putting on one of those productions, Shaiman, Wittman, O’Donnel, and Meehan’s Hairspray.
In our class focused on aversive racism, we examined an article by Patricia G. Devine. Devine’s article consisted of three related studies which focused on the mental processes of both high-prejudice and low-prejudice individuals. Devine’s first study found that high and low prejudice individuals are aware of the same stereotypes. Devine’s second study looked below the surface of consciousness, and found that when people, whether they are high or low prejudice are not aware that they are being primed with stereotypes, they will behave in a way that is dictated by the stereotypes. The third, and (in my opinion) most important study affirmed that there are two distinct routes that people encounter when engaging in stereotypical thought (clarify: thoughts about stereotypes). The first route is the automatic route, that is, when a stereotype comes to mind, the mind automatically processes it, and people automatically use the stereotypes. The second route is the controlled route, which occurs when people get the opportunity to control their thoughts before using or not using stereotypes. It is through the controlled route that we see the distinction between high and low prejudice individuals. High prejudice individuals, when given opportunity to control their thoughts, still use stereotypes to direct their thinking. Low prejudice individuals, on the other hand, take the opportunity to control their thoughts and actively avoid the use of stereotypes in their thinking.
As you watch this video, notice that every player featured in this top ten dunks of all time video is black.
(Now, before I make anymore statements I have to disclaim that this is in no way, shape, or form, anything close to a “reverse racism” blog.) In fact, according to the 2005 census, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League, the professional representations of the two more athletically focused of the “big three” American sports (the third being baseball), were made up of 76% black players and 67% black players respectively.
In their online publication, “Seeing Race and Seeming Racist? Whites Go out of Their Way to Avoid Talking About Race,” the American Psychological Association (I mysteriously could not find an exact author) posits that, in attempt to avoid drawing negative feelings toward themselves, white people often avoid talking about race, even when it is clearly relevant to the situation. In their attempts to be culturally sensitive, however, people who avoid talking about race are often, as a result of their avoidance, perceived negatively.