Saturday, February 5, 2011

You may be more racist than you think

CNN article.

The article linked above caught my attention because of the title. But after reading the article, I found the results astonishing. I thought that this related to our in class discussion about the hypothetical walking down the alley situation and seeding a black man and a white man. Even if the black man is well dressed, studies have proven that most people, black and white, will be more frightened by the black male. Why is this the case? Why in the article did most people still choose the white person as a partner directly after hearing them call a black person a "nigger."

Why do you feel like people are more willing to tolerate racism than to stand up against it? Besides the obvious fact that it is easier, what does this toleration say about us as individuals? Are we being racist or are we behaving in the way that our culture, American culture, has shaped us to be?

Alain Locke introduces the term cultural relativism in “The Concept of Race as Applied to Social Culture,” which is the principle that says an individual’s human beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individual’s culture. Therefore, each individual is considered a product of his or her distinct culture. Besides the fact that we all are affected by living in America, but we are also affected by our individual culture which depends on our personal beliefs and activities. If I had actually been walking down a dark alley and was attacked by a black man then I would have reason to be afraid of every black male I saw if I happened to walk down the alley again. But would I have this same fear if the male was white and I had been attacked by a white male?

Also, do you think there is such a thing as one identifying with ONE culture? If the idea of cultural relativism is a product of the individual's experiences and activities, which may vary, does this mean that no one can officially claim one culture, without dismissing another?

I was also interested in the definition of the word "thug." We talked about the perceived definition to be racialized and the definition
(presently and historically) isn't. This is another example of how experiences in our culture have shaped us.

thug [θʌg]
1. a tough and violent man, esp a criminal
2. (Historical Terms) (sometimes capital) (formerly) a member of an organization of robbers and assassins in India who typically strangled their victims


  1. Though apathy certainly plays a part in our not standing up against racism, I think there are more aspects involved. Namely, our ignorance about the severity of racism in the modern world. Honestly, I was very surprised to hear what Colin said in class last Thursday about campus safety asking him if he goes to school here. I've never been asked that in my time here at Rhdoes, even though I run off campus a lot and use that gate he was talking about often.

    This situation upsets me, but what am I to do about it? I can't exactly go to campus safety and ask them to change their attitude, because I can't be 100% certain that they were being racist. It is possible that they simply stopped him out of chance.

    On the other hand, I could ask them what they are doing to prevent racist tendencies in their protection of this campus. This seems to imply that they are being racist, and it feels awful to call someone a racist when indeed they are not. So it seems the taboo of the subject is the reason why most of us avoid conflict with more subtle problems with racism.

  2. The results of this article were somewhat surprising. I am not surprised that the majority of the research participants chose to work with the white male in the first condition where he had not made a racial slur, but it is staggering that many individuals choose to work with him in the two conditions where he had made negative comments about the black male in regards to his race.
    However in regards to this particular study, one must not be too staggered by the results. When considering the conditions in which this research was conducted, you find that there are various confounds that may have affected its outcome. I am curious to see the methods that the researcher used to construct this experiment to discern the number of confounds possibly present in this study. The participants were clearly aware that this was a study and the forecasters may have overestimated the extent of their outrage purposefully, predicting the goals of the research experiment. So it would not be surprising in that case if there was a rather large gap between what individuals predicted they would do if they were in the hypothetical situation and what occurred when the others actually witnessed the situation. And it is possible that those who experienced the actual situation (who may or may not have been aware that the situation they were viewing was constructed) may have separated themselves from the white individual in order to work with him. By this I mean that the non-black individuals in the last two conditions where the white male did make racial slurs decided to themselves that they would not act that way towards a black individual and therefore are not at all like the white male, so they can freely work with him because that, in itself, does not make them racist.
    And I did not find Colin’s experiences with campus safety surprising because I have heard these stories from others before. One black male in particular has been asked if he worked on campus more than once. The reality is that there may be something wrong with the manner in which our campus safety chooses to police the flow of people on and off campus, but unless someone comments on it the problem will never be fixed. The black students who have been questioned repeatedly by campus safety in this manner simply walk away disgruntled and never officially lodge their complaints. In addition, those who hear about these situations have the excuse that they do not know every detail of the situation and cannot officially do anything besides get upset on behalf of the injured party because they were not present and therefore can never fully know the conditions of the situation other than campus safety may sometimes conduct their business more effectively where particular students are concerned. Without being present for the encounter, we have an excuse to sit back and just feel sorry for the person, assuming that someone else will or would bear the burden of standing against the social injustice if it were “serious” enough. And here rises another question. How serious must the situation be for us to act in order to bring about a change?

  3. As a black woman I have never been asked whether or not I go here by campus safety, nor have my guests been questioned. So, yes, it is hard to say whether or not they're being racist. Also I see their reasons for questioning considering the numbers of black men who come on campus, who don't go here, to play basketball on Tuesdays and Thursdays and they don't have membership to the athletic facilities.

    But I can also say that I have a friend whose mother is white and father is black and he has said that campus safety has never questioned his mother, but they have his father.

    Overall, I don't think that people come to these conclusions based on experience because sometimes most of us haven't, we have only heard of them, but we assumed based off of the media and the manners in which they portray different races. For instance, I have never been come across any racially based confrontations, but from things that I have seen from the media leads me to be more afraid of white men than black men because white men are known for the more sporadic crimes such as serial killings, kidnapping, and torture crimes whereas black men are known for black on black black crimes, robberies, drugs, and gang violence.

    So then are their stereotypes based off of hypothetical situations or actual experience and if hypothetical, I believe that the media is responsible for such opinions and even if that crime is not relevant to the accused race, the media only validates actual experience.

  4. One thing that a lot of people do not keep in mind, is that Black people have gotten to the point where we have to be careful as to what we consider racist and what we consider a misunderstanding. Racism has plagued this Nation for so long along with stereotypes, that calls of racism no longer carry the same weight that they did 30 years ago. Instead of being met with support, those who call instances of racism are often met with the accusation that they are "just being sensitive".
    In saying that, this is why you get the Black students on campus who don't say anything to anybody except each other when we are profiled on campus. We don't want to be labeled as being "sensitive" or "crying wolf". From experience, I can say that I'm not one of the "disgruntled Black students who never officially lodge a complaint". After being accused of stealing a backpack on campus and being briefly investigated by campus safety for a crime I didn't commit, I can say that the results of my complaints, my friends complaints, and my families complaints were in the end, ineffective. There was no plan of action issued by campus safety on how to prevent something like that from happening again. Its important to take into consideration the psychological impact that situations such as the one I experienced have on Black students. Especially since I am just one of many who have experienced this type of situation and spoken up about it only to be ultimately denied any change.
    In class when Colin mentioned that he had been stopped by campus safety several times before, I could only laugh to myself. I can't begin to mention how many times I have spoken of a situation of what I believed to be racial motivated (not necessarily racist) only to have someone non-Black counter with "well, that has happened to me too". The difference is that when a Black person is stopped at the gate and asked for ID, that stays with them on a deeper level than if a White person is stopped for ID. Although it happens to Black and White students, I would be more than happy to argue that the psychological implications are not nearly the same.

  5. I found the article to be quite interesting but at the same time not that surprising. Experts will say media plays a very influential role in the creation of "racist" attitudes and I would agree with this to some extent. But at the same time I think it is important to recognize how much people have a hand in media. For example, a common portrayal of asians is an smart nerd who only focuses on school. Another example would be the common portrayal of blacks as ghetto. People have a choice to an extent about the portrayal they are willing to act and in one way this is an instance in which people are choosing to stand by instead of stand up against attitudes that promote racist tendencies.

    Also, I would like to continue the discussion about campus safety actions on campus and the discussion about whether or not the actions are racist. First, I was not surprised by Colin's experiences either and honestly that is unsettling to me because I have not personally experienced such things but I have had close friends who have. This is a problem on the Rhodes campus, not just within campus safety, but within the student population as well. I think Jarrett is spot on when saying the psychological impact of situations like his and Colin's affect those students from then on negatively and because of the way these instances are handled students who are affected are not encouraged to act because it has been proven time and time again that the population of this campus is not going to act to prevent these situations from occurring again. I think this is an important issue we must look at on campus. I do not think it is still occurring because people have not spoken up, because many people have; rather we must look at changing the way the situations are handled from the start. For example, if someone were to bring about an accusation against a black male student on campus, and there was no reliable evidence, I think it would be appropriate to look into social regulation action against the student who brought about the accusation. A friend of mine who was in a similar situation was wrongly accused and there was no reliable evidence to uphold the accusation of the other student, and my friend was treated wrongly and unfairly yet the other student was simply "slapped on the wrist". Later on, the same student that wrongly accused my friend went on to do other things of questionable social correctness. I think that if that student had been shown the repercussions of their actions and the damage that it had down to my friend, they perhaps would have changed their interactions from that point on. While yes, it is one instance, the policy itself could affect the many single experiences and perhaps help to ensure that the psychological damage these situations cause to students decreases as well as the situations themselves.


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