The Impact of “Positive” Stereotyping on White Social Identity Motivation

As you watch this video, notice that every player featured in this top ten dunks of all time video is black.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOViQaWZ69E

(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.

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Group Identity and Assimilation

During a discussion about social identity theory, someone asked how race functioned as an identity. Social belief structure is defined by Hogg as, “people’s beliefs about the nature of intergroup relations and their assessment of the validity and effectiveness of different strategies to achieve or maintain positive intergroup distinctiveness,” meaning there is an emphasis on maintaining a group identity that is distinct from other groups, creating a clear “us” “them” dynamic. The five components of social identity theory—group’s social status, stability, legitimacy, permeability, and achievability—are all crucial in maintaining the structures of race and racism.

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Seeing Race and Feeling Shame: The rest of the story

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.

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First Week of Class – Reaction to Class Activity

One activity that I appreciated the first week of class was when we each wrote down our different social identities on note cards, mixed up the cards and redistributed them, and then had to say why or why not we thought the card we each received would be in our in-group or out-group. I found this interesting because it made me think about how arbitrary these social identities such as religion, sexual orientation, and disability status in showing how compatible people could be and what values they have in common.

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White Identity Lost

Black identity is a topic that is discussed and recognized everyday in our contemporary racism class. They are grouped and recognized as a separate ethnicity in which they promote the distinction between white and black. It never really occurred to me until I read this quote by Lipsitz, that whites have lost their individual ethnic identity.

“Urban renewal helped construct a new “white” identity in the suburbs by helping to destroy ethnically specific European American urban inner-city neighborhoods.”

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Accessibility & Fit

After reading this week’s articles what really stood out to me was the Hogg article on Social Identity Theory. In this article Hogg talked about the idea of groups and how individuals are placed or fit into their so called groups. In my opinion the most interesting part of this was what Hogg called accessibility and fit, what identities we find most and least important. In other words accessibility and fit is the system of how we rank and use our many identities or groups.

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Where Do We Start?

During our class this Thursday we briefly touched on the impact of both laws and public opinion on human behavior with particular concern to attitudes about racial issues. In Rebecca Kook’s (1998) article The Shifting Status of African Americans in the American Collective Identity, she traces the development of the African-American identity in America through landmark events in our history driven almost entirely by public opinion. As her article makes painfully obvious, most positive progress, unfortunately, has only come in the past 50-60 years. The preceding decades were marred with a series of terrible injustices that were condoned and perpetuated by an American society that was intolerant, ignorant, apathetic and for the most part overtly racist.

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