Eurocentric Racism in the Classroom

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.

Read moreEurocentric Racism in the Classroom

Stereotypes as a Cognitive Tool

I found the findings of the article “Stereotypes as Energy-Saving Devices: A Peek Inside the Cognitive Toolbox” by Macrae, et. al incredibly depressing. The researchers’ studies on both implicitly and explicitly presented stereotype cues revealed that stereotypes, like any kind of schema, save cognitive energy. Rather than analyzing the different traits of a new person, we subconsciously label them as part of a group. That way, we can instead use cognition to process what they are saying, or something else that is going on in the environment. Physical traits such as ace, gender, and disability status obviously stand out as markers about what group somebody belongs, and we make judgments based on our preconceived notions of these groups. Our brains do this automatically; without meaning to.

Read moreStereotypes as a Cognitive Tool

Dosomething.org

My friend showed me the website, Dosomething.org, which is an action-based website that encourages people to learn about various issues in America and how people can affect change in those issues. Some of the issues include education, disaster response and relief, discrimination, HIV and sexuality, and other such problems. I was very interested in the area of the website dealing with discrimination and was delighted to find that it had an entire section for racial discrimination, of which it presented a headline of “The large majority of racially motivated hate crimes are against African Americans.” This section focuses on terms and facts people should know about discrimination, as well as the background of racism in America towards Blacks.There is a section for “learning” and a section entitled “Act now!” which presents readers with a number of ways they can get take action against this pressing and perpetuated issues if racism. Another section of the cite that I appreciate is that it has an entirely separate section of affirmative action, and it also presents ways of learning about the issue, as well as how people can take action towards raising awareness about the benefits (and needs) for affirmative action. I think this section, as well as the many other sections on the website, present interesting and comprehensive approaches towards conquering these issues. In particular, it makes racial issues, which might not be acknowledged effectively elsewhere, accessible to anyone. I suggest checking it out because it takes an optimistic standpoint about what we become so pessimistic about at the end of almost every one of our classes…”what can we actually do to change what seems so out of our control?” It presents concrete ways in which people can make a difference and shows that even small actions are significant.

Read moreDosomething.org

Colorblind Ideology in Children

On Thursday, we talked about the use of colorblind ideology in general, but what I found most interesting was the way in which it was taught to children. In the study by Apfelbaum et al. (2010), children were put into two conditions: one in which colorblind ideology was taught and one in which talking about racial differences was promoted, or the value-diversity condition. The thing that interested me the most was the way in which they explained their reasoning behind either colorblind ideology or talking about racial differences. The color-blind condition focused on similarities. The message that was told to the children was, “…we need to focus on how we are similar to our neighbors rather than how we are different. We want to show everyone that race is not important and that we’re all the same”. The value- diversity version focused on recognizing differences and celebrating them. The statement taught to these students was, “…we need to recognize how we are different from our neighbors and appreciate those differences. We want to show everyone that race is important because our racial differences make each of us special”.

Read moreColorblind Ideology in Children

Stereotype Threat Prevention

I have found that many of the articles we read throughout this course are informative but most of them leave me with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. I really liked the ending of the Steele article because it gave an answer or an idea on how to prevent stereotype threat. The article said that black students who attended the informal weekly rap sessions between white and black students had reduced feelings of stereotype threat and increased grades because the white students and the black students were voicing similar concerns and it made the concerns less racial which made them feel more comfortable and not feel that they were being judged.

Read moreStereotype Threat Prevention

How Much Do I Expect of You?

In class on Tuesday, we talked about the consequences of stereotype threats on certain individuals. In our society, we have many stereotypes that we use every second to help us better understand our surroundings. We use these in every setting, including school. We believe that Asians are smart, men are better at math than Women, and Black students will fall behind. Are these true? Maybe in some cases. Definitely not in all cases. But just knowing that this is a stereotype that people are aware of causes great anxiety. A Black student may sit down for a test and think “People expect me to do poorly because I am Black.” As a result of “stereotype threat,” studies have shown that they will do poorly. In class we talked about whether or not it is best for a professor or teacher to talk to this student about stereotype threat.

Read moreHow Much Do I Expect of You?