We did this experiment in class last week where we split the class into two groups. Both groups were told to make a collage of positive images of Black men and women from magazine clippings we were given. The only difference was that one group was given exceptional tools (big scissors, tape, large paper, and magazine clippings from Essence ect.) and the other team was given poor tools (little scissors, little tape, small paper, and clippings from gossip magazines with poor images of Blacks). The difference of tools between the groups were unknown and not recognized by anyone except the professor. Lastly we were told that this was going to be a competition and that there would be a winner and loser, to give some incentive to do our best.
We have been addressing the many ways in which “racism is in the air,” as pointed out in one of our readings, “Beyond prejudice: Toward a Sociocultural Psychology and Oppression,” by Adams et al. I am interested in this conception of racism because it touches on a number of ways in which racism exists as a visible and invisible manifestation. Adams et al. discuss how racism is located “outside the architecture of the brain, in the socially constructed environments that provide the external scaffolding for individual subjectivity” (Adams et al., p. 223). I especially like these approaches because they encompass many of the things we have been discussing in class. First of all, the sociocultural perspective challenges many views that think of racism as functioning on only an individual level. Since individuals are part of a larger society, they are affected by the many social interactions and observations they constantly encounter. While many people may think that they think and act solely upon their own accord, they are part of a system that has powerful influences. Racism is something that most people attribute to being an individual occurrence; however, as we have read about and discussed in class, it is actually a social construction. This means that racism exists in the structure of our society through our institutions and social interactions. It affects how individuals think about racism, and therefore how we act in regards to race and racism. The “air” that Adams et al. presents is the information, associations, and understandings that we constantly breath in. This racism “air” has been building up for a very long time, which makes it very hard for us to determine it as wrong, or especially oppressive if we are the one’s benefiting from it.
Acts of omission and collective ignorance creates the socio-cultural atmosphere in which racism thrives. In class, we discussed that “the system” is something that does not just happen out of nowhere. Reality isn’t just there; it is socially constructed. If the system is built, then in theory it should be able to be destroyed and rebuilt; however, I feel that the unity and cooperation amongst individuals that is required for such a transformation is nearly impossible. We have created a system based on values that the first settlers came with. The morals and values of today are much different than they were in the past and many conflict with the “system” that has been created. The American society values independence and works on a system of meritocracy; however, due to values and morals changing, and increasing, there are conflicting ideas about how “the system” should be and which system is more effective.
After reading Beverly Tatum’s Article, Defining Racism, I remembered a article posted in Newsweek that reminded me of what Tatum is trying to address. Tatum suggests a very bold statement, that every white person is a racist. At first when I heard this it was hard to swallow and think to myself, a white female, that I am in fact a racist. But after looking at Tatum’s definition I realized that indeed I am a racist. Tatum suggests that all White people are racist because they benefit from being white and are given automatic privilege. Now with saying this, it does not mean that all white people are mean and prejudiced against minorities, it just means that we benefit and are therefore racist. So, why is this so important to admit to being racist or accept this title?