Combining forces: Cognition and Social Construction

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.

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Modern Racism & “The Color of Fear”

The Color of Fear video clip

The link that I posted is from the documentary “The Color of Fear.” I remember watching this in Multicultural Psychology last year, and after we read and discussed the Nelson chapter (Old-Fashioned versus Modern Racism) this is one of the first things that came to mind. In class we discussed modern racism as the conflicting feeling of negative attitudes towards blacks and feeling that racism is wrong. Other components of modern racism are the ideas that racism is over as well as the idea of meritocracy (the idea that someone is either succeeding or failing based on their own personal merit).

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Identifying with Race

I have been thinking a lot about how silly the concept of being colorblind within society really is. I am currently enrolled in Multicultural psychology and we have been discussing racial identity models. Race is part of the individual’s identity and everyone understands and related to their race and ethnicity on different levels. Not only is racism structurally embedded within our society; it is also what defines the individual.

The understanding one might have of their own identity, separates the individual from others and therefore contributing to racism. If race and ethnicity is a crucial part of ones identity, in order for one to define themselves from others is also critical. The individual defines them self by comparing and contrasting, observing others and their behaviors. When comparisons are made is it possible to make these distinctions without personal biases?

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Automatic Stereotyping

After reading the Devine study this week, I was fascinated by the findings of this study and what it says about racism and the use of knowledge of stereotypes. The study had three main findings: first, that both high and low racist subjects had the same knowledge of the racial stereotypes. Second, that when primed with racial stereotypes (not aware of priming) this influenced the way both high and low racist groups viewed racial minorities, therefore it became an automatic response. Third, when given the opportunity to censer their thought, Low racist showed a decrease in racist views compared to high racist subjects.

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Children and Racism

http://library.adoption.com/articles/young-children-and-racism.html

After discussing the Devine (1989) article in class, we had a lot to discuss. Unfortunately, in such a short period of time that we have for class, we were unable to talk about all of the implications of this study. This study had three main findings: all individuals are aware of racist stereotypes; individuals, when primed, automatically act on these stereotypes and change their behavior or perception of an individual; and when in a controlled situation, individuals who are low-prejudice will exert the effort to counteract the stereotypes that they are aware of. All in all, this study showed that everyone automatically thinks about stereotypes that exist but, when possible, people use their controlled response to act in a way that does not show their belief in the stereotype. One of the main questions this led us to was, How do individuals learn about these stereotypes? We realized that as early as childhood, individuals know the difference between races and act upon it. Usually, this is learned from a parent, the media, or school settings. Children pick up on cues very easily, and it does not take much for them to learn how others react to people of a different race.

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Survival of the Fittest

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.

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