Saturday, April 2, 2011

Basis of Self-Valuation

In considering the problems which arise when assessing the context and discerning the meaning of the term race. In part, the problem of racism seems to be based on presuppositions about basic abilities and capabilities of a given group (or person whose appearance places them in the bounds of a group). There seems to be an implicit mechanism by which people learn to associate certain traits with praise and others with disapprobation. Some characteristics which are valued come from factors which are in no way earned or deserved, and yet people often assume a level of self-worth from things which are given them. This stems from a psychological bias which many harbor, in which one's personal success or fortune is attributed solely to one's own work and merit, and another's failure is presumed to be the result of his/her personal failings.

It seems interesting that racism relies primarily on a flawed assessment of value based on a situation which one was merely born into, through neither right nor any fault of one's own. In examining racism, this single base concept should alone be enough for some to wish for a complete (if that is even an appropriate term) elimination of the concept.


  1. In my social psychology class, we studied the fundamental attribution error in which people over estimate internal factors and underestimate external factors when explaining the behavior of others. For example, if one is late to work, people will more often assume that it is because he or she is lazy than because he or she got stuck in traffic. However, the actor-observer bias hypothesizes the opposite when people explain their personal behavior. I believe these concepts directly apply to the "implicit mechanism" you have described, especially in regards to the level of self-worth that exists in our society.

  2. Discussing race and financial status can be tricky. Poverty is concrete and real, race is socially constructed. Though the average person is no genius, neither is so dull as to not observe a despondence between proportions of upper and lower class whites as compared to upper and lower class blacks. He does err if he extrapolates that these statistics reflect internal worth of the individual. More blacks are in poverty because they were originally brought here as slaves and have been struggling to rise ever since. Of course this circular reasoning about people in rough circumstances being responsible or justified for or in their position has allowed and continues to allow people to turn a blind eye to the real causes and problems afflicting our country.

  3. Dear Colin,

    You are hinting at one of the ways in which the narrative of American individualism has been used as a way to blame, perpetuate systems of power. If we are as individuals are responsible/capable of raising ourself of to middle-class success -- then those who don't can be dismissed for their own personal lack of merits, rather than recognizing systemic barriers

  4. I definitely agree with all that you said. It amazes me how racism can be solely about something that a person can not change, like their skin color, but that same person came have even better credentials than another person who is seen superior. I think racism will be a tough concept to eliminate because it is beneficial to the superior group.


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