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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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”.

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This picture, to me, racializes Barack Obama as a leader, by painting him as “primitive” and tying this notion with his policies. This picture shows how Black public figures in the United States still must face the challenge of representing their entire race with every action. .