As I was reading the blog posts regarding microaggressions, my mind quickly jumped to my Interpersonal Communications class and the book that we just read on being assertive. When learning about assertiveness, we learned that it is important in being assertive to stand up for yourself and say something to someone when they give you a certain look, or a microaggression. The book on assertiveness says that if someone gives you a look that you take to be a passive aggressive way to discount you or what you are saying or doing, you should say something along the lines of “I’m not sure what you mean by that look. What were you trying to say?” The book explains that everyone has a right to assert himself or herself and stand up for themselves when it is necessary. However, while reading the blogs I realized that being able to be assertive in many situations is a white privilege.
As I was reading the article by Kang and Banaji (2006) I began to really think about stereotype threat, stereotype lift and stereotype boost. I find it very interesting that many social categories perform according to the stereotype that has been placed upon them in many situations. If a woman takes a mathematics test in a group of people with men and women and she knows that her math intelligence is being tested, she will do worse on the test than if it were just for an exercise or something that didn’t quite matter. At the same time, if a black person takes a test in a room with white people and is aware that their intellect is being test, they will underperform. I find it interesting, then, that a white male would perform better when a certain stereotype about them is present as is the definition of stereotype lift.
In class the other day, Connie asked us what we could do in order to resist the privilege that we are given simply because we are white. After she asked the question, I tried to really think about how any white person could resist their privilege. It’s a really hard question to answer because there really isn’t a way that as individuals we can completely give up the privilege that we have been given. The privilege itself exists simply because we are white and it exists whether we acknowledge its existence or not. However, just because we cannot completely get rid of the privilege we can do something to resist it. Doing nothing in order to resist privilege once we have acknowledged that it exists would not be a good choice.
After completing the IAT last week, I began to really think about the meaning of the test itself and whether the test is a reliable measure of someone’s unconscious thoughts. This thought became even more prevalent after reading the article by Blair (2002) and also the article by Karpinski and Hilton (2001). The articles seem to support the fact that implicit attitudes may be influenced and/or changed by environmental factors and outside forces. I have always perceived the IAT as a direct measure of the implicit biases that live in our unconscious thoughts and feelings. While I have never been convinced that implicit attitudes shape behavior, I always believed that the test itself measures the thoughts that someone has beneath the surface of explicit and conscious understanding. Blair’s article, however, shows that there are many factors that may influence the attitudes of someone and that the context of a situation is a determinant in implicit attitudes. Reading the article by Blair (2002) allowed for a new understanding of how are implicit behaviors are shaped.
In class last week we were challenged to try to explain to a typical white male that racism does still exist and that there are still inequalities between the races. Coming into this class, I had a bit of knowledge of the concepts we would be discussing in class. I also knew that one of our goals for the class would be to learn to educate others on racism and its current existence. The only way that we can try and change the way things are is to educate others about what we are learning. I didn’t realize, however, how hard it could actually be to explain to someone that racism does in fact exist and that simply in being a white person, you are a racist in this society. I understand the concepts that we have learned and being educated on the topic in multiple classes, I understand that racism does exist, that being white comes with a privilege that minority races do not have, that we categorize people automatically when we meet them, that the categories that we create then infer characteristics about a certain group. Without even realizing it, we automatically assign someone that we have just met into a category and assign certain characteristics to them without even getting to know them.
Lipsitz (2008) discusses the thoughts that a sixteen-year old high school student expressed to a reporter from the Los Angeles Times. She said, as I’m sure many other white men and women have, that she could did not believe that white people owe black people anything. She claims that because our ancestors were the ones that were responsible for slavery that we should not have to pay the price for what they did. As I was reading, I was surprised at first to see that someone would actually say or even think something like that. After thinking it over for a little while, however, I realized that there are probably many people that believe the exact same thing that this sixteen-year old girl believes. Why would they think any differently? As a white girl, she has not been taught any differently through examples of her social group and through the stereotypes that white people and institutions have placed upon other groups. A seventeen-year old girl expressed to the reporter an opinion that basically implies that because her family did not own slaves in the past that she should not be held responsible for what the ancestors of other families have done. I was equally surprised by this opinion as by the prior one at first.