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Long lasting prejudices
August 16, 2010 12:04 AM   Subscribe

In 1939, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark performed an experiment with dolls which was instrumental to Brown vs Board of Education, a case that struck down black/white segregation in American education. Earlier this year, CNN's AC360 aired the results (update, also) of a follow up statistical study on racial bias in today's children. Anderson Cooper himself explains his motives.
Not having conversations with your kids about race, about perceptions of other people, doesn't stop them from forming opinions or in some cases biases. [...] Many of the experts we talked to pointed out that it's not enough to say to a child, "We are all the same, and everyone should be treated equally," and then never talk about it again. And it's not enough to assume your child is color-blind and therefore not talk about it at all. Kids receive messages from so many places these days, parents have to counter those messages, or engage with their kids about those messages and how to interpret them.
posted by knz (72 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Most depressing result from the linked paper: the amount of black children picking black figures as indicative of negative traits. Wow.
posted by jaduncan at 2:01 AM on August 16, 2010


"We are all the same, and everyone should be treated equally," is a wonderful and, in my mind, accurate sentiment, physiologically. It seems to me that the divide then becomes one of culture. Is it not enough to say that to a child because the media/entertainment industry hypes up and strongly accentuates the cultural stereotypes (and realities) of different races?

Put another way, and I'm genuinely curious about this: it seems one thing to make a blanket statement that we're all the same. And as far as physical potential (the "nature" side of things) is concerned, I believe that to be true. But the socioeconomic realities ("nurture") for a larger proportion of black people than white people yields that their environment won't bear that potential out.

At that point, is it any surprise that black children pick black figures as indicative of negative traits as jaduncan points out?

That's no excuse not to educate your children to be color-blind and to explain that we are all, at heart, the same and no one should be judged by the color of their skin at all, but it's a challenge that runs deeper than that because of media pressures, stereotyping, and unfortunate statistical realities.
posted by disillusioned at 2:37 AM on August 16, 2010


Hraba and Grant (1970) examined the same question, and came to different conclusions from Clark and Clark (likely due to difference in populations).
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 2:38 AM on August 16, 2010


"We are all the same, and everyone should be treated equally," is a wonderful and, in my mind, accurate sentiment, physiologically. It seems to me that the divide then becomes one of culture.

How is this accurate, physiologically or otherwise? There is nothing wonderful or remotely accurate about the fiction that "we are all the same." "We" are not all the same, blacks are not all the same, whites are not all the same, my own children are not the same. Nature makes snowflakes. Being "colorblind" is not enough.

The first point I try to impress on my children is that everyone is an individual, everyone is different from each other, and the biggest mistake one can make is to place people into groups (as AC stupidly does: "white kids and African-American kids") based on outward appearance, dress, musical interest, or any other of many tribal tendencies people exhibit. "You will more often be wrong than right," I say, "if you judge people as a group." I encourage them to reject all classifications of people into groups because these are false and the only purpose for them is to prejudice your intellect.

The second point is that everyone deserves to be treated equally IN SPITE OF their differences.

I would hope my kids would respond to this inane test by saying "I don't know these people so I can't make any judgements at all about them."
posted by three blind mice at 3:10 AM on August 16, 2010 [16 favorites]


The first point I try to impress on my children is that everyone is an individual, everyone is different from each other, and the biggest mistake one can make is to place people into groups (as AC stupidly does: "white kids and African-American kids") based on outward appearance, dress, musical interest, or any other of many tribal tendencies people exhibit. "You will more often be wrong than right," I say, "if you judge people as a group."

posted by three blind mice at 11:10 AM on August 16


This seems a healthy and broadly correct approach, to me. Things get a bit messy, however, when people voluntarily put themselves into a group, because that often does indeed tell us something about them as individuals. If I see someone self-identify as a Nazi or an astrologer, I'm going to draw certain initial conclusions about them that probably stand a fair chance of being correct.
posted by Decani at 3:24 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


We are not all the same. And we make distinctions based upon differences. This may not be "fair" but it seems to go back to a tribal life pre-agricultural society.
posted by Postroad at 3:51 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


three blind miceThere is nothing wonderful or remotely accurate about the fiction that "we are all the same." "We" are not all the same, blacks are not all the same, whites are not all the same, my own children are not the same.

By interpreting "we are all the same" in the most literal way possible, you have completely missed the point. We are not all literally the same - we are the same in ways that are in many respects more important than our differences. We can suffer. We love our families. We have goals for the future. We fall short of those goals. "We are all the same" is a reaction to dehumanization and prejudice, where these facts are forgotten, or made unimportant.

I encourage them to reject all classifications of people into groups because these are false and the only purpose for them is to prejudice your intellect.

Well, this is just...completely wrong. On the one hand, you say everyone is different. But on the other hand, you say every SUBSET of people is the same as every other. First of all, studies like the Clark and Clark (and thousands of others) show that your claim that groups are all the same must be false, because there are reliable statistical differences between groups. Second, by ignoring differences between groups that are clearly demonstrable, you ignore many important things, such as racial prejudice and cultural differences, just to name two.

If classifications (even imperfect ones) based on race are "false," how do you explain the MASSIVE disparity in wealth between blacks and whites in the US (hint: it's slavery and Jim Crow, both based on race)? If you can't recognize a disparity, because you can't classify, how can you do anything about it?

This point has been made by people more eloquent than me, but the main idea is this: If you pretend to be unable to see differences between groups, and act on that (pretend) belief, you are reinforcing the current disparities between racial and cultural groups. This is how structural racism happens. Don't fall into this trap.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 4:06 AM on August 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


(picks the mefite doll)
posted by Fizz at 5:16 AM on August 16, 2010


Decani: Things get a bit messy, however, when people voluntarily put themselves into a group, because that often does indeed tell us something about them as individuals.

This is, of course, absolutely correct. Self-grouping says "something" about people as individuals, but it does not say everything, or even very much. People who wear dreadlocks and listen to reggae obviously are saying something about themselves (that they like dreadlocks and reggae), but for me to assume that they all think the same, share the same values, or all smoke dope 12 hours a day would be a huge jump into group prejudice. I refuse to accept that way of thinking even if at times I find myself guilty of it. I have to remind myself "people are individuals."

Philosopher Dirtbike: If you pretend to be unable to see differences between groups, and act on that (pretend) belief, you are reinforcing the current disparities between racial and cultural groups.

And your point would be? I am fully aware and completely understand that some people have prejudices and such people create societies that disadvantage certain racial, ethnic, and cultural groups.

But that's not what the survey was asking. If the question is "Which one of these dolls has been the subject of racial discrimination in America" there is an obvious and factually correct answer: the black ones.

If the question (as asked in the survey) is "Which one of these dolls is smart, dumb, mean, nice?" the only correct answer is "I don't know."
posted by three blind mice at 5:27 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the question (as asked in the survey) is "Which one of these dolls is smart, dumb, mean, nice?" the only correct answer is "I don't know."

Again, you missed the point. There is no "correct" answer in research of this type. The goal is to find out what the children think, not to test their knowledge of doll IQs. What the children think is an important barometer of racial attitudes in the US. By calling the test "inane" and believing it has a "correct" answer you show that you failed to grasp the import of the answers of the children.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 5:42 AM on August 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


I can't take Anderson Cooper seriously when the first time I saw him was as the host of ABC's The Mole.

Suddenly he's a reporter?
posted by Ironmouth at 5:44 AM on August 16, 2010


If the question (as asked in the survey) is "Which one of these dolls is smart, dumb, mean, nice?" the only correct answer is "I don't know."

I think that's giving the kids a little too much credit. At the ages they're putting through the experiment, they're not going to subvert the test (or at least very few are). If an adult is expecting them to point to something, they'll probably do it.

In a fair, equal society, what we'd expect to see is a random distribution of which figure is dumb, mean, etc. If anything, that's the 'correct' result.
posted by Jugwine at 5:48 AM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Suddenly he's a reporter?

What, he was supposed to be reporting the minute he dropped out of his Mom's uterus?
posted by spicynuts at 5:51 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


spicynuts: Suddenly he's a reporter?

What, he was supposed to be reporting the minute he dropped out of his Mom's uterus?


Didn't you know? Serious television journalists can never dabble in any sort of lighter entertainment.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:10 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


What, he was supposed to be reporting the minute he dropped out of his Mom's uterus?


When you're a Vanderbilt, different rules apply. Or perhaps none. His whole career could have consisted of hosting a show on Hustler TV and still gotten the job ahead of a whole bunch of qualified people. Sadly, he may be the only person on CNN who can do a half-decent job, as witnessed by his interview of Louis Gohmert last week.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:12 AM on August 16, 2010


I've watched this segment a few times now and I really take issue with the questions the children were asked. "Show me the dumb child." "Show me the smart child". The children were not given the explicit option to say none of the presented figures were dumb, smart or whatever. If you watch it through it's really quite offensive, and you can almost see some of the children cringing.
posted by unSane at 6:12 AM on August 16, 2010


Suddenly? He hosted The Mole in 2000 and moved to CNN in 2001. So suddenly is well yes in the past 9 years.
posted by ao4047 at 6:22 AM on August 16, 2010


three blind mice: If the question (as asked in the survey) is "Which one of these dolls is smart, dumb, mean, nice?" the only correct answer is "I don't know."

The only correct answer is "I don't know"? As Philosopher Dirtbike says, the goal is to find out what kids think. It's not to prompt them to give the politically correct response. In your scenario, not only is there a "correct" response -- the only correct response, even if the kid thinks that a doll carries negative attributes, is to profess ignorance or value-neutrality.

unSane: I've watched this segment a few times now and I really take issue with the questions the children were asked. "Show me the dumb child." "Show me the smart child". The children were not given the explicit option to say none of the presented figures were dumb, smart or whatever. If you watch it through it's really quite offensive, and you can almost see some of the children cringing.

Presumably the test was replicating the conditions under which the test was originally carried out. In that test, there was no option for "show me none of the dolls if you think none of them is x."
posted by blucevalo at 6:23 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the words of the ABW:

When white people say:

“I don’t see color”

or

“We should live in a colorblind society”

What they’re actually saying is:

“I refuse to deal with how our culture and societry treats people of color because it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to understand how having a different skin color or ethnicity affects other people because that means I would have to think and consider other points of view. What I want is to not have to think. I prefer to believe I live in a fantasy land where no one ever pays attention to skin color, ethnicity, culture, or religion. I am part of the problem with race relations, not its great savior.”

posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:35 AM on August 16, 2010 [32 favorites]


allen.spaulding: "What, he was supposed to be reporting the minute he dropped out of his Mom's uterus?


According to wikipedia "...having been a 'news junkie' since I was 'in utero.'"
posted by symbioid at 6:40 AM on August 16, 2010


I love when other people tell me what I'm actually saying when I say something because I belong to a particular racial group.
posted by spicynuts at 6:40 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


People who wear dreadlocks and listen to reggae obviously are saying something about themselves
That they value low maintenance hairstyles over decent musical taste?
posted by seanyboy at 6:47 AM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


As Philosopher Dirtbike says, the goal is to find out what kids think. It's not to prompt them to give the politically correct response.

I get that, but the conclusion drawn is that because kids think in a certain way, there is residual racism in society (which I do not deny.) In other words, the measure of what "kids think" is being used a proxy for the society in which they live. Right?

I assume if children were brought up without any sense of racism, the answers would be more or less random based on their own individual experiences. But because the answers are not random and fit preconceived ideas of how racists would answer, racism is assumed to persist. Right?

My point it that I want my kids to "think" of people as individuals and to reject the ideas of race, gender, cultural background as imposing any particular characteristic (good, nice, bad, etc.) on people as individuals - regardless of what "research" would have them believe about such correlations. People are individuals, full stop.

This is not to say I want to deny them an understanding of history in general, or the history of race (and gender) bias. But it shall always be framed that racism (and sexism) is how stupid people think (and the world is full of stupid people.)

If I have done my job as a parent correctly, they would think (and answer) as I hoped above: "I don't know because race, color (and gender) doesn't tell me much about people as individuals."
posted by three blind mice at 6:49 AM on August 16, 2010


In the words of the ABW:

When white people say:

“I don’t see color”

or

“We should live in a colorblind society”

What they’re actually saying is:

“I refuse to deal with how our culture and societry treats people of color because it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to understand how having a different skin color or ethnicity affects other people because that means I would have to think and consider other points of view. What I want is to not have to think. I prefer to believe I live in a fantasy land where no one ever pays attention to skin color, ethnicity, culture, or religion. I am part of the problem with race relations, not its great savior.”
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:35 AM on August 16


I favorited this so hard, that I almost broke my mouse.
posted by anansi at 6:56 AM on August 16, 2010


I love when other people tell me what I'm actually saying when I say something because I belong to a particular racial group.

Then replace "what you're actually saying" with "what your words imply to other people."

Obviously anything that short is going to be streamlining the point a little, but I think that point still stands.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:04 AM on August 16, 2010


Narrative Priorties: What they’re actually saying is:

“I refuse to deal with how our culture and societry treats people of color because it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to understand how having a different skin color or ethnicity affects other people because that means I would have to think and consider other points of view. What I want is to not have to think. I prefer to believe I live in a fantasy land where no one ever pays attention to skin color, ethnicity, culture, or religion. I am part of the problem with race relations, not its great savior.”


This is a wonderful example of prejudice. Projecting your own biases (and putting your own words into the mouths of) other people is being part of the problem.

There is a difference between being colorbind in your own evaluation of people and thinking that society in general is colorblind. A big difference.
posted by three blind mice at 7:05 AM on August 16, 2010


Studies like this are evidence, in my mind, of why we should stop using the term "racism" when we mean "white supremacy."

"racism" means many different things, from an individual's psychological prejudice about other people on up to deep structural problems in society. "white supremacy" makes it more clear which way the balance of power is shifted, socially and psychologically, in a way that can't be masked by the "colorblind" ideology.
posted by eustatic at 7:10 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


My point it that I want my kids to "think" of people as individuals and to reject the ideas of race, gender, cultural background as imposing any particular characteristic (good, nice, bad, etc.) on people as individuals - regardless of what "research" would have them believe about such correlations. People are individuals, full stop.

That's nice, but it's not possible. If you live in a racist society (which we do, as you admit) you inherit racism. I am racist, and you are racist. The children in the Clark and Clark study are racist. Racism is a result of how our brains work.

Most people aren't racists of the KKK type, or the idiotic Avenue Q "I tell a racist joke every now and then, haha!" type; we harbor attitudes that affect our thoughts and behavior in subtle ways. It is my belief that being introspective about your own racism, and how it is reinforced by our culture, is superior to ignoring it. No amount of acting "colorblind" will make it true; rather, it will make you unable to be introspective about your own biases.

Racism is not "how stupid people think." That's a very simplistic, and wrong, idea about racism. The most insidious racism is the racism we can only detect when we dig deeper than "Racism = I hate black people."

But I've made my point. That's all I have to say about that.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 7:19 AM on August 16, 2010 [17 favorites]


But that's not what the survey was asking. If the question is "Which one of these dolls has been the subject of racial discrimination in America" there is an obvious and factually correct answer: the black ones.

If the question (as asked in the survey) is "Which one of these dolls is smart, dumb, mean, nice?" the only correct answer is "I don't know."


Do you understand the purpose of the study? It's showing that white supremacy is so ingrained in American culture that even little African-American children (who are so young that they probably couldn't define the word racism) accept it uncritically - to the point of thinking that people who look like them are worse than people who don't.

Obviously this is really fucking worrying and something that needs to be fixed. It's not going to be fixed by plugging your ears and pretending that it isn't happening.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:34 AM on August 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


There is a difference between being colorbind in your own evaluation of people and thinking that society in general is colorblind. A big difference.

This I agree with, but I agree also with Philosopher Dirtbike. We are conditioned to be racist (or tribal). What is most revealing about people is what they betray in tests like this, or what they admit when you dig deeper than the surface politically-correct stigma that has only recently attached to openly expressing racist views. Whether I want my kids to reject prejudices or not, society at large inculcates them with prejudices every day. I can't divorce what goes on in society at large from my own evaluation of people, because the two are invariably interconnected.
posted by blucevalo at 7:54 AM on August 16, 2010


Personally, if you managed to convince me that I've inherited racism, that I'm just going to be racist, that even when I do not think I am being racist, that I'm still being racist, and that this will always be so, no matter what, I'd completely give up. You can substitute any -ist you like in there.

If this is original sin all over again and there is no salvation, only self-flagellation, I would abandon all hope. No sense in beating myself up over something I can't change. The message sounds like "You're fucked. You were born bad and you'll always be bad. Nothing you do will fix it." Throw in a side helping of "... but if you want, here's this thing you can do to make it up to us for being a rotten shit, even though you'll continue to be so" and that's a good guilt trip to go. Maybe there are some indulgences I could buy?

The rhetoric does its job, but ... you might want to consider what would happen if people took it seriously.
posted by adipocere at 8:05 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Then replace "what you're actually saying" with "what your words imply to other people."

There are two parts to this equation and you're only covering one of them. How about 'what other people infer from my words based on their own experiences, prejudices, injuries, etc'? You can't force a conditioned implication on someone's words without also forcing an conditioned inference on the listener. It's not like ABW exists in a vacuum of purity.
posted by spicynuts at 8:06 AM on August 16, 2010


The rhetoric does its job, but ... you might want to consider what would happen if people took it seriously.

So what's your point?
posted by blucevalo at 8:18 AM on August 16, 2010


My point is that, if I believed that I was irredeemably This Bad Thing, I would not be inclined to do anything about it. And that I am probably not alone in feeling that way.

Instilling a sense of "I can't do anything about it" in the very people you are trying to change is counterproductive, because the very next step after that is "Why bother?"
posted by adipocere at 8:24 AM on August 16, 2010


Personally, if you managed to convince me that I've inherited racism, that I'm just going to be racist, that even when I do not think I am being racist, that I'm still being racist, and that this will always be so, no matter what, I'd completely give up.

It sounds like you're treating racism as an all-or-nothing quality here — or assuming that other people will treat it that way. And I agree that if you take that all-or-nothing view of racism, the view that you describe is a pretty grim and hopeless one.

But there's an alternative: accept that racism, like any other character trait, is a matter of degree. If you look at it that way, then people do have room for improvement — not by eliminating racism entirely, but by reducing and moderating it.

(Look at it another way. Suppose someone said "Look, everyone gets angry sometimes — so why should I work on my anger management skills? After all, I'll never get rid of it." You might think they were missing the point, because all else equal, it's better to be less angry rather than more. It seems to me that giving up on anti-racism would be missing the point in the same way. Sure, we may never be perfectly free from prejudice — but less prejudice is better than more, and we've all still got plenty of room to work on our "prejudice management" skills.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:29 AM on August 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Instilling a sense of "I can't do anything about it" in the very people you are trying to change is counterproductive, because the very next step after that is "Why bother?"

Who's instilling a sense that you can't do anything about it? By suggesting above that recognizing the problem is the first step towards doing something about it, I implied that you could do something about it.

"Doing something" about racism doesn't necessarily entail "eliminating racism." Affirmative action, for instance, "does something" about racism, without seeking to eliminate racism; rather, it is an attempt to counteract it.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:30 AM on August 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, but you're forgetting a few key components, like "Even when you think you're not being racist, you're still racist. You just don't recognize it." That's conducive to self-focused paranoia, not action.
posted by adipocere at 8:36 AM on August 16, 2010


That's conducive to self-focused paranoia, not action.

I am aware of no evidence that this is true.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:48 AM on August 16, 2010


"Even when you think you're not being racist, you're still racist. You just don't recognize it." That's conducive to self-focused paranoia, not action.

That's not what that statement conduces in me.
posted by blucevalo at 8:52 AM on August 16, 2010


That's conducive to self-focused paranoia, not action."

I suppose "So educate yourself so you can better recognize when you're doing problematic behavior so you can lessen it", really needs to be stated?

One could equally read the statement, "You could be suffering from high blood pressure" to mean the correct behavior is to freak out and obsess about it every day... instead of going to get your blood pressure checked?

There's plenty of resources, online, in libraries, and, in many places, actual workshops on anti-racism, if you're actually interested. People imagine it has to always involve a giant chunk of life devoted to activism, but seriously, taking the time to educate yourself (Hey, read 3 books?) is really where this matters.

This is, of course, if you actually care. Most people don't, though they sure like to take a lot of time telling everyone why they shouldn't educate themselves. (as I'm sure this thread will quickly demonstrate).
posted by yeloson at 8:56 AM on August 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I dunno, I'm gonna stick with the anger management analogy here. "Sometimes, even when you aren't aware of feeling angry, you really do have bottled-up anger inside you. You just don't recognize it." That's (in my experience) true — but it doesn't strike me as a reason to give up. Just the opposite, in fact. Once I discovered that I was carrying around unconscious anger, it motivated me to pay attention to that anger, to make it conscious rather than unconscious, and to learn how to deal with it in a healthy way.

For me, at least, it was the same way with the idea of unconscious racism. Once I realized it existed, it motivated me to pay more attention to my own unconscious prejudices, to make those unconscious prejudices conscious, and to learn how to defuse and control them. I doubt I'm the only one who's reacted that way.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:03 AM on August 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


You may have missed the Pure-O MetaTalk post, then. It's essentially the same problem. Introducing the notion of this thing is bad, and you are this bad thing, even when you think you aren't into the human psyche can introduce some less than wonderful outcomes for some groups of people, particularly introspective ones.

And no, yeloson, because one of the great parts of it is that You Can Never Know When You Are Being Bad. See various knapsacks. Even when you think you are free, nope, you've got the knapsack, strapped on, tight. I wasn't making the comparison to Original Sin, without salvation, lightly.

Granted, some folks have a near-infinite capacity for self-flagellation, but it isn't something I would bet on as a whole.
posted by adipocere at 9:03 AM on August 16, 2010


Now hold on a sec.

I'm quite familiar with the idea that people tend to have unconscious biases and unexamined privilege. (See: knapsacks.)

But I've quite literally never heard it claimed that people are incapable in principle of seeing and examining that shit. The idea, as I've heard it, has always been that you can examine it, that you should examine it, and that it's sad that some people choose not to.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:07 AM on August 16, 2010


If this is original sin all over again and there is no salvation, only self-flagellation, I would abandon all hope. No sense in beating myself up over something I can't change. The message sounds like "You're fucked. You were born bad and you'll always be bad. Nothing you do will fix it." Throw in a side helping of "... but if you want, here's this thing you can do to make it up to us for being a rotten shit, even though you'll continue to be so" and that's a good guilt trip to go. Maybe there are some indulgences I could buy?

I happen to believe in "original sin" (whether imposed by God or just bad habits learned very early in life -- same result). But this hasn't crushed my sense that I might be able to change (grow) for the better. It just does a good job of undermining any sense of self-righteousness I might get from time to time.
posted by philip-random at 9:11 AM on August 16, 2010


You Can Never Know When You Are Being Bad

That's a straw man. Where did anyone say that, and if they believed it, why would we be discussing the role of introspection?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:18 AM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think what's happening here is fairly common. If I can attempt to (inadequately) channel Jay Smooth for just a second here - perhaps what's best is not to say, "You, White Person, are a racist." I don't know how that's conducive to growth, even if you can empirically demonstrate that all whites are - to some degree - racists.
I've encountered this in my own work - I can say without hesitation that I have attended (and recently facilitated) more anti-racism training than anyone I know. I spent three years in graduate school focusing on these very issues. Nevertheless, when I'm at a party with people I don't know, who don't know me, and the issue of race comes up - there's almost always someone there who's ready to inform me that - since I'm a white person - I have to do my own work, I have a hard mountain to climb, I'm a racist, and if I want to know anything at all about my own racism I have to attend an anti-racism training.
Their default setting is, "This white person doesn't know shit about racism, they've never given it a passing thought, their invisible knapsack remains unexamined, their dominant privilege blinds them to the plight of the other, etc." The only thing that might lead them to think this about me is my skin color. The thing is, many people have worked hard to examine their own prejudices - they've attended trainings, read books, explored their own racist thoughts and dominant privilege - but God forbid they should ever bring any of that up - because the assumption is that people don't ever talk about race ever, especially white people.

A lot of this is like the conversational equivalent of friendly-fire.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:27 AM on August 16, 2010


Sheesh, I hate thinking about and talking about race and racism. I'm white, and so that means I'm carrying the burden of Original White Sin whether I want it or not. I fully recognize that I've profited enourmously from growing up as a member of the dominant race, and I fully recognize that I carry with me both conscious and unconscious prejudices, and I'm aware of and agree with the knapsack analogy, and I've been to anti-racism seminars and talks. But you know, it's really hard to enter into any kind of discussion about this when everything I say is revealing some of my inner prejudices or is simply wrong. And also, if I don't talk about racism and hope instead for a colorblind society, I'm still wrong.

So, I have to agree with adipocere above that telling me I'm already guilty is not the best way to try to get me to change. This is why so many white people seem to start any discussion of race with a preface of how they have black friends, grew up in a mixed neighborhood, whatever, because it's so important for us to say and think that we're not one of the guilty ones.

But as Shannon Wheeler (and many others) once said, being born white is just one of those things you simply can't complain about. Ever. I fully understand that. Just don't be surprised if you find me (and many other thoughtful, caring white folks) extremely unwilling to talk about race. At all. (A rather silly and trivial analogy is to the reaction many men have when their wives or girlfriends ask them, "Does this make me look fat?". There is no possible way to answer that question other than saying, "I think I hear the doorbell" and running from the room.)

Even this discussion on racism here is only possible because of the (relative) anonymity of the internet.

That said, I still do my best to keep an internal watch on myself for prejudice, along with my attempts to do anger management, to eat well, say kind things or nothing at all, and so on. It's yet another thing for me to worry about.

On preview, what Baby_Balrog said.
posted by math at 10:37 AM on August 16, 2010


So, I think a lot of people think of racism in exactly the terms you're using, adipocere, i.e., that it's a sin, that it's an individual, moral failing that makes you a bad person. But the idea that we're all racist because we live in a racist society is an attempt to look at racism from a really different perspective.

It's like we're fish living in a polluted river--we can't help that some of the pollution gets inside of us. And that's true for everyone--white people and people of color included. Part of the point is that it's not any one person's fault that they have racist thoughts and reactions sometimes. Because, growing up in a society in which racism is deeply ingrained and you've been getting those messages (from the media, from the way people interact [or don't interact] with each other, from the way your mom always locked the car doors when in a black neighborhood) since before you could talk, how could you not?

The idea is that racism is a shared, collective problem, the way that pollution is. No one person can clean up the river. But if you admit that the river is polluted, and that's affecting everything that lives in it, yourself included, you can start to figure out how to work together to change it.

So, okay, obviously we have some more control over how we think than fish do over their intake of the chemicals in their environment. And you can do individual things like introspection and education to mitigate, and those are important things for sure. But it's ultimately not an individual problem. It's a collective one, and it requires a collective solution. Honestly, I think it's going to take generations to truly transform white supremacy.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that the idea that we've all absorbed some amount of racism from our racist society is intended (in my perspective) to convey the opposite of the idea that it's something people should feel guilty or powerless about. It's not something bad that you're doing. It's not something only white people have a problem with. It's everyone's problem, and so, it's everyone's responsibility to fix it. Which is unfair, because we didn't create the problem. We didn't pollute the river. People living before us did. But if we don't clean it up, no one will.
posted by overglow at 10:49 AM on August 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Just don't be surprised if you find me (and many other thoughtful, caring white folks) extremely unwilling to talk about race. At all.

I don't know what you're afraid of. I'm white, and I've had many perfectly rational discussions of race with people who are not white.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:08 AM on August 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just don't be surprised if you find me (and many other thoughtful, caring white folks) extremely unwilling to talk about race. At all.

I'm white, I've spent a great deal of time discussing race and racism with friends of mine of many different races and backgrounds, and while I often cringe when remembering things I've thought or said in the past I'd like to think that I'm in a better place than I used to be, and I'm incredibly grateful for the patience and generosity of the people who've helped me figure things out along the way.

In my experience, an unwillingness to talk about race is often more accurately described an unwillingness to confront some unpleasant truths about our society and ourselves. But as much as those conversations sometimes really suck for me, I try to keep in mind that while I have the option of deciding I don't feel like dealing with the issue of racism on a given day, I have many friends and acquaintances who don't get to make that choice. If my non-white friends have to go out into the world every day and be confronted with the harsh realities of race in America, the least I can do is listen when they talk about those experiences, and try to do what I can to examine my own perspective and not make things any worse.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:56 AM on August 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Nevertheless, when I'm at a party with people I don't know, who don't know me, and the issue of race comes up - there's almost always someone there who's ready to inform me that - since I'm a white person - I have to do my own work, I have a hard mountain to climb, I'm a racist, and if I want to know anything at all about my own racism I have to attend an anti-racism training.

Their default setting is, "This white person doesn't know shit about racism, they've never given it a passing thought, their invisible knapsack remains unexamined, their dominant privilege blinds them to the plight of the other, etc."


Baby_Balrog, if you are truly bitter about the fact that many POC will assume any given white person to be racist, then maybe it's time to take a break, step back from teaching anti-racism for a little while, and take some time to go back to listening.

The truth, as I'm sure you already know, is that no matter how much knapsack-unpacking you do, you will still never know as much about racism as a person of color. Never.

Let's say you've never eaten cheesecake. You can read about cheesecake all you want. You can talk to people who've eaten cheesecake. You can study the history of cheesecake. You can compare different recipes for cheesecake. You can visit the Cheesecake Factory. But until you've actually EATEN cheesecake, you do not know more about the taste of cheesecake than a person who has. And some people eat cheesecake every day of their lives, from birth to death. A million different kinds of cheesecake, shoved down their throats until they're nauseous and disgusted at the thought of a graham cracker crust. And then you come up to the table, you - a person who has never eaten cheesecake but has studied cheesecake extensively and knows a dozen different recipes - and you are upset when these people tell you, "No, actually, you don't know anything about cheesecake."

Well, you don't. And since there's no way for you to actually eat cheesecake, you never will.

So you listen.
posted by philotes at 12:06 PM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've encountered this in my own work - I can say without hesitation that I have attended (and recently facilitated) more anti-racism training than anyone I know. I spent three years in graduate school focusing on these very issues. Nevertheless, when I'm at a party with people I don't know, who don't know me, and the issue of race comes up - there's almost always someone there who's ready to inform me that - since I'm a white person - I have to do my own work, I have a hard mountain to climb, I'm a racist, and if I want to know anything at all about my own racism I have to attend an anti-racism training.
So correct them. "I understand why you might assume I haven't thought about this, but I've done some work in this area. [List examples if needed.] I understand it's a neverending journey though."

That's it.
Their default setting is, "This white person doesn't know shit about racism, they've never given it a passing thought, their invisible knapsack remains unexamined, their dominant privilege blinds them to the plight of the other, etc." The only thing that might lead them to think this about me is my skin color.
Congratulations, you've felt a tiny little bit of what a racist assumption feels like. It fucking stings, huh?

Who is this "they" though, whose default setting it is? You realise people who are not white can be just as flawed as people who are, and "anti-racists" are still people, and so some of them can be just as prone to getting things wrong, yes? So you will come across people like that, yes?

Why do you feel it's relevant here though?

Since you've had so much anti-racism training, let me ask you:

Why do you think, in a post about the continuing prejudice against black skin colour, about the heartbreaking Doll Test (more previously), and how even black children continue to absorb it into themselves — why do you think we seem to have turned to talking about white people's feelings, and how white people have it hard? Does this seem strange to you? Is this pattern familiar to you? Did they talk about it in your anti-racism training?

The irony of adipocere talking about introducing the notion of You are this bad thing into the human psyche, and complaining about self flagellation, as a response to the Doll Test is... I'm lost for words. I'm lost for hope.
Introducing the notion of this thing is bad, and you are this bad thing, even when you think you aren't into the human psyche can introduce some less than wonderful outcomes for some groups of people, particularly introspective ones... Granted, some folks have a near-infinite capacity for self-flagellation, but it isn't something I would bet on as a whole.
So don't.

Really, what do you want people to say? I see people bending over backwards trying to persuade you that making the effort is worthwhile, and you are just a cross-legged child on the floor, his arms crossed, shaking his head, refusing to move an inch, having a tantrum. "Why should I? I'm bad anyway."

So don't.

I'm sick of our capacity for self-absorption. If you see these children's self-perception due to their own skin colour, and your heart doesn't break for them, your first urge isn't to care for them, to change whatever it is within yourself and others to protect them, if your focus is still on yourself, always on yourself, how people are not sufficiently cushioning things enough for your self-esteem for your liking or in a way that pleases you, then don't.

The world will keep on turning, full of people who think self-reflection is self-flagellation, and change is what other people need to do. Do or don't. But for the love of god, stop acting so fucking entitled.
posted by catchingsignals at 12:15 PM on August 16, 2010 [19 favorites]


Thanks, overglow, for a thoughtful and illuminating analogy for racism today, that of a polluted river we all have to swim in. I'll be carrying that idea around with me for a while, thinking about it and seeing how it works for me.

Philosopher Dirtbike and Narrative Priorities, I agree that one shouldn't be afraid or unwilling to talk about race, and I should note that in my previous comment I'm doing an extreme extrapolation from myself to "many other thoughtful, caring white folks". If I could edit posts, I'd definitely take that out and limit my analysis just to myself. I think that Narrative Priorities hit the nail on the head with the reference to confronting unpleasant truths, and since I generally clam up at the merest hint of conflict or discord, then my reluctance to talk about race (along with politics and sex) is perhaps more understandable.

Oh, I'll talk about race if I'm asked a direct question, and I'll do my best to listen and to be supportive, but I still find it difficult to be in those conversations. This is perhaps due to my own attitude of guilt, and I think that overglow's fish-in-a-polluted-stream analogy will help me in that regard.
posted by math at 12:19 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of disappointed that this post about the ongoing, heartbreaking destruction of black children's self-worth and love for one another has only resulted in yet another discussion about how racism makes white people feel, and the conditions black people have to meet to get them to give a fuck about it. I get that a lot of people don't know if they have anything to say on the actual topic, but Jesus.

On preview (sorry, I stepped away), catchingsignals said it better.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:29 PM on August 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


Yes, catchingsignals said it very well, as did two or three cars ..., and as one of the offenders, let me simply say in my own defense that I've been helped by this discussion to think about racism in a new light (the polluted river analogy from overglow) and that I'll hopefully be able to use this to actually talk about race.

And now, back to the original topic.

There are many terrifying aspects to the Clark and Clark doll experiment. A few items will stay with me for a while. The black child picking a white doll as the one that "looks like me" just makes me weep. And then there's this:

The Clarks asked black children to choose between a white doll and -- because at the time, no brown dolls were available -- a white doll painted brown.

OK, this was back in 1939-1950, but still... no brown dolls?

But equally sad is this quote from the Wikipedia article about the Clarks:

A 60 Minutes report in the 1970s noted that Clark, who supported integration and desegregation busing, moved to Westchester County in 1950 because of his concern about failing public schools in the city. Clark said: "My children have only one life and I could not risk that."

The Clarks were an amazing couple who did just about everything they could to mitigate the effects of racism on society, including opening a children's mental-health clinic in Harlem (still running after 60 years). But the New York City schools, the same schools that Kenneth Clark worked to desegregate and to improve for so many years, were still so bad that he felt he couldn't in good conscience let his children go there. And from reading Jonathan Kozol's books, it seems that things aren't any better today.
posted by math at 12:52 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just remembered, act three of this This American Life episode needs to be here:

Babies Buying Babies.

Elna Baker reads her story about the time she worked at the giant toy store, FAO Schwartz. Her job was to sell these lifelike “newborns” which were displayed in a “nursery” inside the store. When the toys become the hot new present, they begin to fly off the shelves. When the white babies sell out, white parents are faced with a choice: will they go for an Asian, Latino, or African-American baby instead? What happens is so disturbing that Elna has a hard time even telling it. (16 minutes)

posted by catchingsignals at 1:28 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Catchingsignals, you have missed to what and to whom I was responding. That's a shame. MeMail me if you want clarification.
posted by adipocere at 1:37 PM on August 16, 2010


If you're a brown person in most of the world you cannot escape the idea that there is something wrong about you, something "off" about you, something not quite right, not quite normal, and maybe not quite human. You don't talk in the right way, you don't think the right way, and you definitely don't look the right way. There are constant reminders that something about you doesn't fit.

Little black girls learn very early on that everything natural about them is ugly. Their hair, their skin, their flesh, even their voices; none of it measures up. Sometimes these ideas are reinforced by your own family and friends. However, even when your family is great at affirming your worth as much as they can, you cannot escape the views of society. When you are the one open and reaching out to people and no one responds and you're told it's just the "natural" way of things for men not to "prefer" you.

Now I'm going to post a link, and I understand that it will be very provocative and perspective-shifting for some people, but I think it really captures the weight of what I'm talking about:

If Black Women Were White Women

The piece can be triggering which is why I can't bring myself to post a sample of it here. I don't want any white women reading it to feel attacked by the weight of what it feels like to be in the position of the ugly, unworthy.

Now this goes beyond beauty, as the doll/skin experiments demonstrated. It is not just that white is beautiful, but white is good and white is smart. Lighter is better than darker in every way. Ultimately, white is just what it means to be human, not even worth mentioning or remarking upon. It is dark that is remarkable and out of place.

I can't tell you how much I have second-guessed my own intelligence because of the race/IQ debates. I'm actually embarrassed to say it, but it's true. There's always a little tiny doubt in me, probably compounded because I am a woman. It's just like the fact that though I have worn my hair "naturally" (primitively?) for years, I still have the feeling that it's unkempt, unfeminine, undone, and disturbing. It has "kinks" in it. It's pelo malo. Of dubious professional value. If I color it, I look more ghetto (a black girl was suspended from my strict high school for dying her hair blonde, but no one bothered the white girls, I know, I know it's outrageous but most of us didn't blink an eye).

It's funny, when I was thinking about the Dr. Laura snafu, I reflected on the word "nigger" and realized that other than a few white people hurling it at me, the most I've had the word directed at me is when other black people refer to my "nigger naps". But of course, we are racist too.

Sometimes I am amazed by how much confidence white people have, especially white men. Oh I know they are not as invulnerable as they may appear. I know that especially because every time there is a discussion about race, they become very vulnerable indeed and say things like

But you know, it's really hard to enter into any kind of discussion about this when everything I say is revealing some of my inner prejudices or is simply wrong. And also, if I don't talk about racism and hope instead for a colorblind society, I'm still wrong.

and

Even when you think you are free, nope, you've got the knapsack, strapped on, tight. I wasn't making the comparison to Original Sin, without salvation, lightly.

I feel you, I understand. But I would ask, why do you get to be free, why do you get to be saved, and why do you get to "not think about" race and racism because it hurts? I never get to do that. I am constantly reminded of my race. Even if I wanted to forget it, white people would not let me. And it hurts, it hurts. I don't want other people to have to feel the stress, the pressure, the water torture of race consciousness. I know what it feels like to "always be wrong". Still, I may be black but I am not strong enough to bear it either. Everybody thinks that we can just take it but it's not true. It hurts.
posted by Danila at 3:16 PM on August 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


That breaks my heart Danila. The article you linked to & what you said. *hugs*
posted by seanyboy at 3:28 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Baby_Balrog, if you are truly bitter about the fact that many POC will assume any given white person to be racist, then maybe it's time to take a break, step back from teaching anti-racism for a little while, and take some time to go back to listening.

It wasn't my intent to come across as "bitter" at all. FWIW, I wasn't talking specifically about people of color - but I suppose I didn't make that clear at all.

The truth, as I'm sure you already know, is that no matter how much knapsack-unpacking you do, you will still never know as much about racism as a person of color. Never.

And I fail to see where I made this claim.

Why do you think, in a post about the continuing prejudice against black skin colour, about the heartbreaking Doll Test (more previously), and how even black children continue to absorb it into themselves — why do you think we seem to have turned to talking about white people's feelings, and how white people have it hard? Does this seem strange to you? Is this pattern familiar to you? Did they talk about it in your anti-racism training?

I feel fucking horrible about it, I feel attacked by you, I feel that you've completely misconstrued and twisted my attempts at an honest dialogue - and honestly I don't feel like my contributions to this thread will have any net positive effect on the universe or metafilter. I feel like I should have kept my mouth shut - for the first time on this website I actually attempt to find some common ground with folks who've never paid a passing thought to their dominant privilege - and, yeah, I'm starting to see why they get so defensive.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:52 PM on August 16, 2010



I can't tell you how much I have second-guessed my own intelligence because of the race/IQ debates. I'm actually embarrassed to say it, but it's true.


Danila, don't be embarassed--be angry. It's a well-researched phenomenon known as "stereotype threat". Interestingly, it seemed to be further confirmed when test scores increased after the election of Obama.
posted by availablelight at 4:24 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"stereotype threat"

NPR interview with Claude Steele about his and Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s new book, Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:59 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the links availablelight. I'd like to talk about this a bit more.

This is what makes racism so oppressive. Which is the dumb doll? The black one. Which is the smart doll? The white one.

Stereotype threat is a direct example of racism, right now, not 50 years ago, that affects minorities/outgroups everywhere. However, the message I constantly hear about the so-called black achievement has little to do with racism. What I hear is more like this:

What it's like to teach black students

This is the experience of a white teacher who taught at a majority black school in the South. I am posting it here as an example of the kinds of messages black people get in America and how dehumanizing it all is. I will be a little vulnerable once again and post the passage that really got to me:

There is something else that is striking
about blacks. So many of them seem to have
no sense of romance, of falling in love.
What brings men and women together is
sex, pure and simple, and there is a crude
openness about this. There are many degenerate
whites, of course, but some of
my white students were capable of real
devotion and tenderness, emotions that
seemed absent from most blacks—especially
the boys.


Most blacks, especially the boys, are not even capable of real devotion and tenderness..

This article upset me greatly when I first read it; honestly it made me despair. It wasn't just the article itself, but the responses to it from people of all races. Articulate, reasoned responses that basically boil down to black kids just aren't as human, there's something about them that makes it so they just can't be right, act right, do right. Most everyone agreed that the teacher was being honest, telling it like it is, and shame on those who disparage honesty for the sake of political correctness.

Then there were the many (supposedly) black people who had to pipe in about how they are the exceptions of course, and they hate stereotypes but it's true, some black people are really like that.

The strangest thing to me is that while many people will point out how the teacher paints with too broad a brush and is extreme in his perceptions, very few of the 600 comments actually question whether his entire perception is askew. Perhaps this doesn't need saying, but I feel say it. I am black, born and raised in a very low-income, inner city part of Philadelphia. I have been around black people all of my life. I have seen all kinds of things. I have also had a lifelong habit of studying humanity, its past and its present, and the ways people are. Black people really are just people. Everyone will say "of course of course" but if you refuse to be aware of the insidious ways blacks are dehumanized and if you refuse to question the perspectives of white people then I do question whether or not you can really see us as people.
posted by Danila at 5:04 PM on August 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's not about you, Baby_Balrog. Text is not able to carry this through, but I am saying this in the most pleading tone: it is not about you.

You can see that I wasn't at all the only person who reacted to what you were saying. When I said "Did they talk about it in your anti-racism training?", I wasn't attacking you, I was genuinely asking. Because I would've thought they would've mentioned it, because it is such a pattern, when the conversation gets turned to the needs and feelings of white people. I thought you would recognise it, and I was trying to get you to remember, and see that it was starting to happen right here, again.

Your trying to find some common ground with folks who've never paid a passing thought to their dominant privilege is a worthwhile conversation to be had, but not here, Baby_Balrog. Not in this context. math understood (thank you math), and I hope you will too. You say you are feeling fucking horrible about it — but I don't think you really know how fucking horrible it feels, to be in thread after thread like this, and see the conversation turn over to critiques of how we are not talking to white people in the right way. This thread is not about that, can you see? Can you see how it might take something away from the conversation? How it distracts and derails? And how it was starting to snowball, just as I made my comment?

It's not a big deal, Baby_Balrog. I don't think any less of you for it in any way. If I seemed to be attacking your training and the work you've put into it, that wasn't not at all my intention, and I truly appreciate the work that you have put in for this cause. But you seemed to be speaking as if you knew it all already, while I was watching you making that mistake in this very thread. None of us can ever fully know, y'know? We all have something to learn, and we all make mistakes. There was no intention to attack in any way, and if I spoke in anger, it's because it hurts for me too, just like Danila, though I know I have to go through much less than she does. Do you see why the conversational space needed to be made for that?
posted by catchingsignals at 5:05 PM on August 16, 2010


Danila, I remember seeing that — it wasn't on Reddit by any chance?
posted by catchingsignals at 5:09 PM on August 16, 2010


When I was four and my brother was three (which would make it 1964), we were in a grocery store with my mother. Coming down the aisle towards us was a black man, a type of person we had never seen before. My brother began to cry, saying he was scared. My mother said "Don't be afraid. People with dark skin are just the same as people with light skin". This is one of my earliest memories, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Go ahead and say my mother was simplistic, or that she was ducking reality, say whatever you want: if a researcher had given me the doll test the next day, I would have repeated what my mother had told me.

Still proud of my mother.
posted by acrasis at 5:11 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]




Danila, I remember seeing that — it wasn't on Reddit by any chance?

Ugh. I well-remember that shocking piece of crap as well. I don't know if it was on Reddit, but people were pasting it into the comment sections of news articles on education equity around the time it was published.

As for myself, I had parents who were fairly "mainstream racist" (i.e. not into hate crimes or epitaphs, polite to colleagues, etc., but definitely gave us the, "you wouldn't want to marry one, they have nothing in common with us" party line). What saved me what that my very first pediatrician was African American (assigned to us through Kaiser, so parents didn't have a choice). I remembered him being gentle (he reminded me of my dad, the way he handled me and had a deep voice), and my mother obviously deferred to him as an authority figure. And when you're 4, mom's always right. So in that respect, I'm all for whatever measures are necessary to create a diverse professional class, for the benefit of society at large.
posted by availablelight at 5:44 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a serious question, and I'd love to hear what people think. Do you think the effect of Stereotype Threat" would be decreased or increased if you make the people taking the tests aware previously of what stereotype threat is?

There's a hint in the scienceblogs.com article that stereotype threat is akin to athletes choking before a race. I f this is the case, then it may be that knowledge of stereotype threat may actually add to the negative pressures causing poorer performance.

But then - knowledge is power. If you know what you're doing, maybe you can more easily work against it.

Thoughts?
posted by seanyboy at 12:48 AM on August 17, 2010


But then - knowledge is power. If you know what you're doing, maybe you can more easily work against it.

Yes. IME, knowledge of the phenomenon of stereotype threat can help to depersonalize the stereotype and also detach it from internalized negative thoughts about one's demographic group. Instead of "Am I really smart / fast / etc enough to ace this?" or "Shit, I did a terrible job on that. Is it because I'm just stupid / less athletic? Did I just help prove that my demographic really is biologically inferior at this skill?",

that knowledge helps create more mental space, more solid grounds, for not doubting or limiting oneself. As in, "That negative stereotype does NOT apply to me, or my demographic as a whole" and being able to believe it wholeheartedly. It's not an easy linear progression, but that mental space, even if it's just recently planted and desperate for water and fertilizer, is one hell of a lot more productive than a mental space composed entirely of the former.

Did a quick search to see what if any studies there are on this question. These aren't direct answers, but they're interesting pages from social psychologist Jeff Stone: athletic stereotypes, and What can members of a stigmatized group do to reduce the prejudices and stereotypes held by others?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:59 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


There was a recent documentary, called Good Hair, about black hairstyles, that touches on beauty standards and race. Possibly of interest here.
posted by MrFish at 1:42 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh. I well-remember that shocking piece of crap as well. I don't know if it was on Reddit, but people were pasting it into the comment sections of news articles on education equity around the time it was published.

I didn't know it had spread to other places, but now that you mention it, of course it did. All it takes is an excuse.

I don't think reducingstereotypethreat.org has been linked yet, but it also has a good page on what can be done to reduce stereotype threat.
posted by catchingsignals at 4:35 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Those are fascinating links, cybercoitus interruptus, thanks. Wish I could change the contrast though!

And in answer to your question seanyboy, I think it would help in some ways too, but I think being aware of it still leaves you with a self-consciousness, that gets in your way. I don't think the weight of stereotypes is so easily shrugged off, because stereotypes is about how other people relate to you too. Which you don't have a lot of control over. Knowledge helps, and it's so very important to know about these things (I wish this knowledge were given to kids in school, for example), which will eventually change so much. But if you need to reduce the effect of stereotype threat just before a test, say, I think the more indirect ways mentioned in some of the links may be more helpful.
posted by catchingsignals at 5:25 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


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