Martin Luther King’s 1967 address to the American Psychological Association called for action not only an academic level from the APA. He called for action. This stood out to me because we, of course, were discussing this speech in an academic setting: the classroom. King advises: “social science should be able to suggest mechanisms to create a wholesome black unity and a sense of peoplehood while the process of integration proceeds.” He calls on the social sciences to find a way to unify and strengthen the African American community whilst empowering to move upward in mainstream American society.
As we left class on Thursday, I decided to ask a question that I have wanted to ask for a while. At 4:15, as class was getting out, I said, “Connie, I have a complicated question that I want a quick answer to. My friends use the ‘n’ word, and I know it’s wrong, but I don’t know what to say to them to prove that it is inappropriate to use. How do I make it clear to them?” After I asked this question, many students chimed in with different times and situations during which they have heard people use this word at any moment, not thinking about the negative effects it can have. One student talked about how, in other parts of the country, the word is not seen as taboo. Here, on the east coast, I take it to be the worst word. If I use curse words or say any other politically incorrect slang words for a group of people, I would never get the same look as I would with the use of the “n” word. Personally, all I need to know is that this word is extremely offensive and I will not use it. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many people. However, because there is such a taboo on the word, it does not take much for someone to understand that, when asked not to use the word, they should not be speaking that way in daily conversation. But then there are the people who do not understand it. They may question why it is offensive and/or why they cannot use it. I never truly had a good understanding and answer until recently.
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.
This week, we were asked to complete two IAT’s. One that measured our level of association between Blacks and weapons and another the measured ones preference of Blacks versus Whites. I am not skeptical of the tests accuracy. I believe that it can truly measure ones implicit feelings; however, I do question whether these feelings can ever be truly implicit. I believe that the mind is a powerful thing, and that if an individual wants to believe he or she holds certain values, they can convince themselves of it. I do not however think that within an individual, they do not doubt their wanted behaviors. I have a hard time believing that someone can be unaware of their biases/associations when asked directly if such biases/associations exist. They may not know that their bias/association is as strong as a test may show; however, I feel that they must be aware of it. Can someone be truly unaware of his or her biases?
I feel very strongly about the what I saw as Connie’s challenge to us in our last class period. The way that she presented a point of view, one which is so pervasive throughout society and is a significant factor as to why structural racism still exists, was very difficult to provide coherent arguments against. I found myself struggling to put together words in order to say exactly what I wanted to say. I thought that the readings were very helpful in providing historical and theoretical evidence to back up our positions to try to convince Connie that her ideas about race and racism in our society should be reevaluated. She represented so much of the American population who are ignorant to how racism is so prevalent in our society and why that is. I enjoyed, as well as felt anxious about, our journey to finally start talking about how the roots of racism continue to permeate throughout our institutions and affect how we organize ourselves. The idea of race and racism as a social construction is very important to be clear about and I hope that we further our analysis and therefore understanding of such a complicated topic.
I found the chapter Old-Fashioned versus Modern Racism very interesting because I think that it portrays how racism is expressed most often today. I thought it was interesting that Modern racists consider racism to be open feelings of hatred of towards the minority group. I think that this is an idea that is held by quite a few people and they do not realize that there are many other forms of racism. The article also said that modern racists …
Prescriptive anti-racism messages can backfire: