In this blog post I want to bring up something that actually discovered earlier today. A friend of mine transferred from Muhlenberg to Smith College, an all girls college in Massachusetts a couple years ago. When speaking with her today, she told me about a Smith alum, Anne Spurzem, who posted a letter about how adding diversity to Smith College is virtually ruining it. Here are two links that discuss (and present) the letter to the editor:
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.
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.
This week in class we discussed psychological reasonings behind prejudice and racism. Through a couple readings we discovered that humans categorize others through an implicit automatic mechanism. Without even realizing that we are doing so, we are judging a person within seconds of looking at them, placing them into pre-made categories that society helped us create throughout our lives. Stereotypes form these social categories, which then become further reinforced whenever we believe that we witness a person fulfilling a stereotype. On the bright side, this research shows that humans are not deliberately placing others in categories, or more specifically, whites are not deliberately demeaning blacks and other minorities as “less than” them. However, this psychological mechanism implies that human’s brains are hard-wired to act this way, and once there categories are formed, there’s nothing we can do about it.
Recently, I suffered a sprained shoulder and after a doctor’s visit, I was referred to physical therapy for help in rebuilding strength in my right shoulder. Let me say this right from the start, I am in no way, shape, or form a malingerer. So on my first visit, everything was about evaluating and trying to gather as much information about the injury determine the best treatment regimen for me. By the second visit, one is supposed to have a plan of treatment tailored to his or her injury explained and agreed to. Well, I got more than that on the second visit.
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke
This quote has resonated throughout groundbreaking historical events. The majority of German citizens did not hold Hitler’s beliefs of Jewish persecution, but very few did anything to stop it. Quite recently, a toddler in China was hit by a car in a market. 18 people walked past her but did nothing to help her. The extent of her injuries were so severe, and she died the next day. When the pedestrians were asked why they did nothing to help her, they stated that they were afraid to get involved, as they feared that they blamed for the child’s injuries. This was attributed this to the Nanjing Judge case, in which the judge ruled that the man who saved a fallen elderly woman from being crushed by pedestrians was guilty of pushing her down. In court, it was said that common sense dictates that if he brought her to the hospital, he must have been responsible. Fear of being blamed for the child’s injuries prevented the pedestrians from intervening, and their refusal to help the crushed toddler led to her. But does this quote relate to contemporary racism? If we do not address issues of race freely, are we guilty of perpetuating racist attitudes?
As they so often do, our discussion in class this week reminded me of one of the most influential teacher’s that I’ve had the privilege of learning from at Muhlenberg, Dr. Charles Anderson. Our discussion of how racism directly effects the testing ability of black youth made me feel as if I was right back in introduction to African American Studies and I had to re-visit one particular article that I felt was so relevant to what we are discussing. The article is by Molefi Asante, who is one of the most respected African American studies scholars in the world. He is currently a professor at Temple, where he started the first PhD program for African American studies. He has written countless works, but the articles I read, or should say re-read are titled “Locating a Text: Implications of Afrocentric Theory”, “Afrocentricity”, and “Where is the White Professor Located?”. In all of these articles, among other things, he points out the many flaws in the American education system. More specifically Asante convincingly argues that our education system is based on racist Eurocentric viewpoints that keep white people at the center of every academic subject and only teach these subjects from a Eurocentric perspective. Asante further asserts that because of this narrow and exclusionary education system, young African American students feel alienated, dislocated, unimportant, and above all, marginalized in the scope of academic study. Getting more specific, Asante discusses how non-white groups are portrayed in academic study, specifically the study of history, as the groups that are acted upon rather than groups with agency. He argues that the agency denied to minority groups in the study of history and academia in general further alienates African Americans and other minority groups because it promotes a feeling of helplessness in their lives.