Spring Break Conversation: Racism in the Workplace

At home over break, my parents of course wanted to hear about what use I am getting out of their tuition money and the asked me about their classes. I had the most to tell them about this one. For one thing, I have definitely done the most work and learned the most in this class in comparison with my others this semester. I also know that this subject material would be most unfamiliar to my parents and was excited to share everything I had been learning. My parents are both very academically-minded people and were intrigued by the nature of this course.

My dad has worked in a hospital for twenty years and has had a lot of experience meeting new people and seeing others of different races and socioeconomic classes interact. He has had the chance to see a lot of first-hand, non-scientific examples of some of we we have learned from the readings in class. For example, I was very disheartened and almost shocked by Devine’s research on the cognitive aspects of racism and prejudices- that we create schemas based on race just like we do anything else in order to save cognitive energy. I had always assumed that because we learn in elementary school that everyone has equal rights and abilities in America today that most Americans endorse this view automatically. I had been too optimistically naive to think that Americans could build their own prejudices even if the do not consciously endorse them. However, because my dad has been in the workplace for a very long time and has a pretty extensive knowledge of the human brain he had already seen evidence of Devine’s findings in his daily life. He probably gets to see different hospital workers (nurses, doctors, receptionists, cafeteria workers, custodians) interact with patients of varying social identities (since a hospital is frequented by all different kinds of people) and see this idea play out. He has unfortunately probably seen people in situations from 15-second interactions in an elevator to 15-minute job interviews make unconscious snap judgments about the people they are talking to. In the future, I would like to further question my dad about whether or not he catches himself using such automatic processes about the people he meets at work.

3 thoughts on “Spring Break Conversation: Racism in the Workplace”

  1. Hi Jordan, I also have these interesting and sometimes frustrating encounters and conversations with my parents when I come home on breaks. They have both gotten very used to the fact that I am now interested in these academic topics and I am lucky that they engage with me. Sometimes; however, they feel that I have a too critical eye for everything and that I am attacking some things they do. I try to keep it as more of a conversation than me telling them straight out what I have been learning in class so that they can relate more. It has been fun, but it can be frustrating when they don’t see what we see and when they do not want to listen.

  2. Interestingly enough, my dad also works in a hospital and sees racism very often. I wonder if that is just a coincidence, or if there is something about hospitals where it is more likely to be caught.

    • As we know, racism is a structural phenomenon that is enforced and reinforced by the institutions that exist in society. Hospitals, as well as the entire medical system and model, are such institutions that stem from White and “American” ideals that are inherently racist. Therefore, they would definitely be settings where racism in all of its forms and manifestations would exist.

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