(CNN) - A white child looks at a picture of a black child and says she’s bad because she’s black. A black child says a white child is ugly because he’s white. A white child says a black child is dumb because she has dark skin.
This isn’t a schoolyard fight that takes a racial turn, not a vestige of the “Jim Crow” South; these are American schoolchildren in 2010.
Nearly 60 years after American schools were desegregated by the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and more than a year after the election of the country’s first black president, white children have an overwhelming white bias, and black children also have a bias toward white, according to a new study commissioned by CNN.
A while back I saw a news segment about a similar type of study (it was done on a computer, where the program would have “white” on one side “black” on the other, and would tell you to associate white with good and black with bad, or white with bad and black with good. Then it would flash words on the screen, and you had to, as fast as possible choose which category the word goes in.
Turns out people were faster and made fewer mistakes when they had to associate white with good and black with bad. Requiring a fast response was argued to be getting at a person’s subconscious beliefs before they have a chance to filter themselves.
Part of it is taught, because even black people are biased against black people. (Similarly, women are biased against women.)
But there is an aspect of this that goes beyond conditioning, IIRC if you do experiments where you take a group of people and put half in red shirts and the other half in blue shirts, people will associate with those wearing the same color shirt and so on.
And if you are taught it doesn’t matter, it won’t.
I come from a strange family. My parents didn’t have any racial issues, but there were certain things that I was taught … stood out.
Even today, these things still stand out to me. o
My mother taught me that women, LADIES, don’t drink beer from a can. Today, if I see a woman drinking beer from a can, my opinion of her drops significantly :rolleyes:
My father always made fun of left handed people. If I find out that a person is left handed, I tend to watch them and how they do things. I’m semi-ambidextrous, but I still think that lefties ‘eat funny’ or are just interesting.
I think (but don’t quote me) it was Malcolm Gladwell of Blink fame that did this study. Although I do not recall anything which corroborated the last two paragraphs above. It was always the “different”. It may have been me, however…
You know, there is some truth to this. But I want everyone to be careful.
We all have built into our subconscious/genes/whatever, an implicit trigger which recognizes someone as being “like” as less than a (subconscious/instinctive/whatever) threat than someone who is “unlike”.
Think about it. I know it may not be popular, but at one time it served us quite well, to know whether the person coming around the bend was one of one’s own clan, or one of an outsider’s.
But there is a problem. To a large extent, this feature in our brains is no longer necessary. Yet it still exists, as these (Gladwell’s?) studies can show.
I think the trick is to acknowledge these instincts still exist, yet not base public policy on them. Forgive, but do not forget.
“Unlike” takes many forms. As a person with an “Arkahoma” accent, (a sort of Southern/Southwestern mixture) I am assumed by most “Yankees” to be ignorant, or at least more ignorant than I really am. Even my Yankee wife, upon first meeting me, assumed I was ignorant. Likewise, people with Southern accents tend to assume that people with “Yankee” accents are overbearing and stuck up.
It gets even more subtle. Among those who live here are people with true “hillbilly” accents. They are assumed to be more “ignorant” than people with more “Arkahoma” accents. But they aren’t, necessarily. People around here with “purer” Southern accents (mostly women) are assumed to be more refined. Men, on the other hand, who have a softer “Southern” accent rather than the more “manly” Arkahoma, are assumed to be effete. No particular reason to believe any of that, either, except that women who want to be regarded as refined tend to cultivate a more “Southern” sound than even their brothers might have. You have to have an ear for all that, but if you live here very long, you do.
Lots of people around here assume not-terribly-charitable things about Blacks, of whom there are few. But after just a little bit of mutual exposure, blacks do not lack for friends, including very close friends. People also stand off from “Yankees” who move here, but it fades.
I really do think it’s a “natural” thing to hold back from one who is “unlike”, even be negative about him or her on a superficial level. But it’s not immutable.
One thing I found out the hard way was that the educational resources for combatting racism should only ever be used with an all-white audience, or else probably should not be used at all - children of other races in my group were shocked speechless to find out what the stereotypes floating around in society about them are, and I regret exposing them to that information.
I should have just said, “We are all the same on the inside, each with our own unique talents that we bring to the group,” and left it at that.
Speaking as a law enforcement officer of some twenty-plus years, I have to admit that my prejudices tend to be based on behavior.
If I deal with a white guy who is moderately dressed, clean, well spoken, polite, and cooperative, I’m going to be better disposed towards him than I am towards a white guy who is dressed in flithy, torn clothing, has dirty matted hair down to his shoulders, is highly intoxicated, is belligerant and obstreperous, and is calling me filthy names.
If I deal with a black guy who is moderately dressed, clean, well spoken, polite, and cooperative, I’m going to be better disposed towards him than I am towards a black guy who has his hat on sideways to keep the sun out of his ear, has to hold his pants up with one hand to keep them from falling down around his ankles, is highly intoxicated, is belligerant and obstreperous, and communicates in a version of Black English Vernacular that is completely unintelligible.
I approach everybody the same way. How it goes from these depends on the way they behave towards me.
I would feel better if you had a chance to delete, or modify your message
Please… take a look at it. I was all in and ready to pat you on the back, and agree with you…
both positives were equal… but when you compare the negatives… You may want to re-word that. I hope that wasn’t what you meant to say. If it was, then you are not as unbiased as you may want to believe you are. :shrug:
[quote="Apryl, post:10, topic:198766"]
I intentionally did NOT quote you. :-)
I would feel better if you had a chance to delete, or modify your message
Please.. take a look at it. I was all in and ready to pat you on the back, and agree with you.... :p
both positives were equal... but when you compare the negatives..... You may want to re-word that. I hope that wasn't what you meant to say. If it was, then you are not as unbiased as you may want to believe you are. :shrug:
I expect he'd be just as impatient with a white guy who couldn't be bothered to learn to speak the language of the country he was born in, or buy clothes that fit correctly, or put his hat on properly, too. ;)
I think too much can be made out of this study. I mean it really is hard to really put into perspective how much this may actually have to do with day to day thinking. Sometimes you can take one thing out of context, and when you try to put it back into context it never really comes back.
Yes everyone is unique, but we don’t deal with everyone in every context in that way. At times we have to make quick judgments based on not much information. The more you get to know a person the less, the superficial stuff matters.
So I might also say, maybe its so, but so what? In the end bias can be overcome. Bias may even come due to other things besides skin color. One is always going to have to overcome bias. Its a matter of not letting pride get in the way, especially selling yourself too short. Things will not always be fair, but turn your back and take your services to a better place.
Children tend to absorb the attitudes they perceive around them. My pre-teen just raises his eyebrows when he complains of slurs from classmates and I tell him color doesn’t matter - he believes I’m wrong because in his world it does, regardless of what I say.
Things are changing but that change is necessarily slow because of ingrained cultural preferences and stereotypes that have more to do with what people think is good or beautiful rather than with racism.
I still struggle with the painting of St Michael and the devil which hung on a wall in my childhood home. For as long as I can remember, black and white have been at least subliminally associated with good and bad (and often with ugly and beautiful) and this is often reflected in our art, culture, language and attitudes to skin pigment. It is hardly a problem limited to blacks and whites either.
The election of a black president may or may not increase the rate of change of attitudes - I increasingly tend to believe the latter because of the ingrained attitude I see in too many young black people that to succeed in the world it they have to outperform and that their success is in spite of their color rather than unrelated to it.
What I find encouraging is that people can discuss that stuff more readily today with causing offense or being offended. It’s a baby step, but it’s a step.