03
Mar 19

The Racialization of Arrests

Have you ever done anything illegal? Have you ever thought you would be arrested for doing something illegal? What about being arrested for “just looking suspicious”? If you are a white individual in America, especially if you are male, you have probably never worried about being arrested and view the police as protectors who keep your city safe. Change the color of your skin and suddenly you have to worry about being arrested for doing nothing more than standing on a street corner in a high crime neighborhood. Police are now no longer the saviors of the city, keeping you safe at night; they are your worst nightmare, brought to life in the bright light of day. “Blacks are far more likely to be arrested than any other racial group in the USA. In some places, dramatically so” (Heath, 2014).

There is no telling exactly why there is such a dramatic disparate in arrest rates, it could be racial discrimination, it could be socio-economic factors, the neighborhood you live in, or the amount of education you have received (Heath, 2014). Whatever factor you place the blame on, or if you place blame on all the factors, the fact remains the same: the United States’ Criminal Justice System has a problem, a big one.

The U.S. prison population looks very different from the country’s actual demographics. According to the Pew Research Center (2018), blacks represent 12% of U.S. adults, but 33% of the sentenced prison population whereas whites represent 64% of adults in the U.S., but only 30% of prisoners. This discrepancy is astounding, but imprisonment rates themselves are not the only bad news for African Americans. Criminal records have a huge impact on future success, and the negative impact created by a criminal record is twice as large for African Americans (NAACP, 2019).

The outcry from the communities about this injustice has caused many police departments to implement anti-bias training, but is this an effective way to reduce the rates of African American incarceration? There are studies out there that suggest that training someone to not show racial bias could potentially actually increase racial bias (Kaste, 2015). Also, there has not been much research on the long-term effects of anti-bias training on police, so there is no guarantee that these trainings are actually effective (Kaste, 2015). Besides, police bias may not be the main cause of African American incarceration.

African Americans make up a large percentage of the low-income population, which decreases the opportunities available to them. The percentage of young black men not working or enrolled in school is twice as high as it is for young white men (Comey, 2015). Many minority communities are struggling with lack of adequate education and decent employment opportunities (Comey, 2015). Not only that, but these low-income neighborhoods have a legacy of crime and the minority individuals growing up in these neighborhoods inherit that legacy and become involved in crime (Comey, 2015).

Police bias is part of the problem, but the way our society is structured is the main culprit in this mess. In addition to changing our policing policies, we need to work together to help the disadvantaged groups in our society gain more opportunities so that they can break out of the cycle of crime and poverty.

 

References:

Comey, J. (2015, February 12). Hard Truths: Law Enforcement and Race. Retrieved from https://www.fbi.gov/news/speeches/hard-truths-law-enforcement-and-race

Gramlich, J. (2018, January 12). Gap between number of blacks, whites in prison narrows. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/12/shrinking-gap-between-number-of-blacks-and-whites-in-prison/

Heath, B. (2014, November 19). Racial gap in U.S. arrest rates: ‘Staggering disparity’. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/18/ferguson-black-arrest-rates/19043207/

Kaste, M. (2015, April 06). Police Officers Debate Effectiveness Of Anti-Bias Training. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2015/04/06/397891177/police-officers-debate-effectiveness-of-anti-bias-training

NAACP. (2019). Criminal Justice Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/

 

 


01
Oct 18

Diversity Doubleheader

While visiting Baltimore to watch my beloved Houston Astros take on the Orioles aCamden Yards this weekend, I surprisingly found that the 23rd annual Baltimore Book Festival was running concurrently with the end of the baseball season. During the festival, I was fortunate enough to attend an entertaining and informative presentation by April Ryan, a Baltimore-born White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and a CNN contributor. In 21-years of reporting on the White House and its occupants, Ryan has made a name for herself as a tenacious journalist who is willing to ask the tough questions that concern diversity in America. At today’s appearance, Ryan disclosed one of the most difficult questions she has ever had to propose when she famously asked Donald Trump, “Mr. President, are you a racist” (Mr., 2018)? In furthering the discussion on the issue of racism, a look at its definition and several of its various forms is vital to increasing our understanding of this important social issue.

Our textbook defines racism as “bias against an individual or a group of individuals based on…race/ethnicity” (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012, p. 333).  Before Ryan’s controversial question to President Trump, she had consulted with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to ask how they defined the term. Their response provided me an interesting viewpoint in which to view the topic. “Racism,” according to Ryan per the NAACP, is the “intersection between prejudice and power” (Ryan, 2018). Essentially, it is not enough to merely show bias towards someone based on their race or ethnicity, but the domineering person must feel some level of supremacy over the victim. This revelation was just one of the many I had in listening to Ryan speak of her experiences.

Since Ryan’s infamous inquiry, she has felt the consequences of blatant racism that many of us are most familiar with hearing about. She has received a barrage of emails and letters from individuals who have attacked her because of her skin color. These threats have not only been directed towards Ryan, but also her family, and she now employs a bodyguard for protection (Ryan, 2018). Ryan also spoke about the glaring racism she witnessed during the 2016 presidential campaign season as it relates to then President Barack Obama. In traveling the country covering the election, Ryan saw and heard an uprising of people who were angry because an African-American had reached the pinnacle of American politics. As the crowds grew in attendance and intensity, there was little doubt for Ryan that some people were enraged with the idea of a person of color with so much power (Ryan, 2018).

In some instances, individuals did not openly declare racist statements, but nevertheless, Ryan felt that forms of symbolic racism were apparent in their attitudes. This type of racism is not particularly directed at a certain ethnic group, but instead, aimed at a corresponding target or another “proxy-type factor” (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 334). One of these “targets” during the last presidential campaign was that of immigration reform, a topic that disproportionality affects people of different ethnicities. Proponents of stricter immigration policy argued that immigrants were taking jobs from unemployed Americans. As the campaign picked up steam, Ryan recalled the negative tone that shifted particularly towards Latinos (Ryan, 2018). People were not necessarily chastising these individuals publicly based on their ethnicity, but instead energetically cheered to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, and end programs that benefit immigrant children and their families.

Racism, in its many forms, is a pattern of prejudice based on one’s race or ethnicity from individuals who feel dominant over other people. This type of bias can be blatant in openly discriminating against someone or can be concealed as pure disagreement with factors associated with a particular minority group. During a recent presentation at the Baltimore Book Festival, April Ryan, a veteran White House correspondent, shared some of her experiences in dealing with bigotry. Over the last two years, she and her family have been victims of unabashed verbal assaults because of her race, and she has also witnessed less-obvious symbolic racism against other minority groups.

After Ryan’s appearance, I headed over to Camden Yards to watch the final regular season baseball game for my Astros, and the Orioles. While Houston is headed to the playoffs, Baltimore ended their season with an emotional farewell to Adam Jones, an African-American outfielder, who has spent the last 11 seasons starring for the O’s. With his every at-bat, a diverse crowd of fans rose to their feet and gave Jones one standing ovation after another. I have no idea who any of these people supported for president. I have no idea who was a racist, or not, in that crowd. But for a few hours in time, apparently it didn’t matter. The only color anyone was worried about was their team’s shade of orange. My team lost, but it still felt good.

References:

“Mr. President, are you a racist?” (C-SPAN). (2018, January 12). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoBOueMfdcY

Ryan, A. D. (2018, September 30). Speech presented at Baltimore Book Festival, Baltimore.

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.A. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


25
Sep 18

Can Discrimination Negatively Affect Health?

In the United States, minorities have an increasingly disproportionate rate of diseases, injuries and premature death.  Discrimination has received national attention in regards to law enforcement and education, but can it affect public health, too? Discrimination is the unequal treatment or negative behavior towards an individual solely based on their membership to another group (Jones, 1997).

There are several ways that race can determine health.  Race normally determines living conditions and opportunities.  These opportunities (sometimes known as white privilege) are not automatically presented for many minority groups.  Lack of opportunity affects education, location, and employment.   Location also influences opportunity and convenience of reliable and quality healthcare.  Finally, many individuals may engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with some of the difficult circumstances that come with being part of a minority group.

Racism and discrimination have negative effects on mental health.  Some studies have found that discrimination not only adds to stress but can be a pathogen in itself (National Institute of Health, 2004).  This is not a new concept.  W.E.B. Du Bois (2003) wrote that “the Negro death rate and sickness are largely matters of condition and not due to racial traits and tendencies.”  Over the lifetime, discrimination and prejudice are internalized, becoming unhealthy for the mind and body.  Even for individuals that have not personally been discriminated against, they can become hyper aware for mistreatment, leading to chronic stress.  After last week’s blog report on stress and gut-wrenching anxiety, it’s no surprise that chronic stress in minority groups would contribute to poor health outcomes.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has instituted several initiatives, with the goal of eliminating health disparity among ethnic minorities in the United States.  Public awareness campaigns continue to encourage people to care for loved ones and seek medical help when needed (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2004).

 

 

 

References:

DuBois, W. E. B. (2003). The Health and Physique of the Negro American. American Journal of Public Health93(2), 272–276.

Jones JM. Prejudice and Racism. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1997.

National Institute of Health; Bulatao RA, Anderson NB, editors. (2004). Understanding Racial and Ethnic Differences in Health in Late Life: A Research Agenda. National Academies Press 7, Prejudice and Discrimination. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK24680/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2004, August). Health Disparities Experienced by Racial/Ethnic Minority Populations. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5333a1.htm

Williams DR, Neighbors HW, Jackson JS. Racial/ethnic discrimination and health: Findings from community studies. American Journal of Public Health. 2003;93


25
Mar 17

Racism is Learned at an Early Age

Racism Learned

“New research suggests prejudices may form at a much earlier age, but also offers hope that biases can be unlearned (Boston Globe, 2012).”

            Discriminatory and racial behavior may be learned in children as young as three years old, according to Mahzarin Banaji (a psychologist, brain researcher, and racism and physical prejudice expert from Harvard University).  Children are quick to demonstrate racist behavior and form connectivity between negative biases following exposure to episodes of discrimination.

Banaji performed a study which analyzed these perceptions in which scientists revealed how kids and adults reacted to indistinctive faces.  The pictures of faces ranged in skin tone from very light to brown, in which the kids indicated whether they were happy or angry.  There were 263 subjects classified as children (ages 3 to 14).  Consequentially, the faces that could be presumed as white or black were shown to the young subjects.  As a result, the children indicated that the faces that seemed “black” or “Asian” seemed angry, compared to the faces that they considered to be “white” were happy (unveiling the white children held a pro-white bias).  Furthermore, a group of black children did not present any bias toward white or black facial expressions.

Will prejudice behaviors that children learn at a young age stick with them in future adulthood?   The biggest influence of this factor is how a child analyzes in-group and out-group biases, in which “in-group members tend to evaluate and relate to the in-group favorably and to the out-group less favorably (Schneider, 2011).”  The key component that is necessary for children to understand diversity is to observe different groups interrelating in a balanced and positive nature.  Exposure to diversity throughout their lifespan will express that there are more important qualities that define someone other than the color of their skin, physical features, expressions, ethnicity, or gender (Boston Globe, 2012).

Learned racism is the outcome of how often an individual is personally exposed to how dissimilar cultures and races of people interact with one another.  The development of negative intergroup attitudes allows us to identify the causal effect of role structure and self-identity of oneself to other groups.  In conclusion, improved relations and withheld judgments may occur if a child observes positive interactions and attitudes among diverse groups.

 

 

 

APA CITATIONS:

James H. Burnett III Globe Staff. (2012, June 10). Harvard researcher says children learn racism quickly – The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 25, 2017, from https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2012/06/09/harvard-researcher-says-children-learn-racism-quickly/gWuN1ZG3M40WihER2kAfdK/story.html

 

Schneider, Frank W., Gruman, Jamie A.,Coutts, Larry. M. (2011). Applied Social Psychology: Intervention And Evaluation (Second Edition., PP. 7).

 

 

 


24
Feb 17

“I’m not racist, but…”

We have all heard someone utter these words, followed by an obviously racist statement.  It may seem clear to those around them that they are behaving in a racist manner, but that individual may truly be unaware of his or her biases.  The following is an extreme example of such racism:

Prior to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, it was not unheard of for the Ku Klux Klan (often referred to as the KKK) to hold rallies while clothed in white hooded robes, where they publicly condemned and intimidated minorities (History.com, 2009).  During a time when public spaces were still segregated and African Americans did not have equal voting rights, the presence of the KKK was not as widely condemned by society as it is today.  Though their numbers have dwindled in recent decades, the KKK is still operating in the United States.  In fact, they are actively recruiting members.

This week, the Press Enterprise newspaper printed an article about the Ku Klux Klan distributing flyers in the quiet town of Berwick Pennsylvania with the intention of recruiting new members (Wemple, 2017).  The newspaper reprinted the flyers in full in their newspaper (widely regarded as severely poor judgment), which encouraged white people to be proud of their race.  A direct quote from the Ku Klux Klan’s flyer reads, “I’m proud to be white!  There is no need to feel guilty about the past!  If that offends you your racist!”  The flyer also included a section about White History Month, to protest the perceived inequity of having a national celebration of Black History Month but no officially recognized equivalent for white people.  The Ku Klux Klan claims that their words are not racist, yet they are so offended by African Americans showing pride for their heritage that they feel the need to invent a similar holiday of their own.  They are upset by the inequality when, for many years, they have advocated for the exact opposite.  While they are not blatantly intimidating minorities by burning crosses on their lawns or encouraging violence against them, this behavior fits the description of a subtler form of racism: aversive racism.

Aversive racism can be defined as exhibiting racist tendencies while denying that those thoughts, behaviors, and motives are racist (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012).  People who are aversive racists believe that they support egalitarian principles, or equal rights for all, though this is at odds with their clear racial biases.  Their racism is subconscious.  While it is arguable that the KKK organization is actually unaware of their own racist tendencies, their recruitment flyers seem to suggest that they do not view themselves as racists.  How is it possible that these individuals hold racist beliefs while maintaining that they are not racists, and how may applied social psychology help to remedy this?

Hing, Li, and Zanna (2002) found that exposing individuals to their own hypocrisy was an effective way of reducing prejudice.  Participants completed a questionnaire to assess their levels of racist attitudes towards Asians.  Students whose questionnaires revealed high levels of racist attitudes toward Asians advanced to the next phase where they spent at least five minutes interacting with an Asian experimenter with whom they completed a word association task.  Interaction with the Asian experimenter was intended to prime participants to potentially reveal positive or negative attitudes about Asians based on the words that they chose.  Afterward, participants in the hypocrisy-inducing condition were asked to write an essay advocating fair treatment of Asian students that would potentially be featured in a school pamphlet.  This exercise was intended to induce negative feelings of guilt in participants who exhibited racist attitudes.  A follow-up questionnaire assessed how they were feeling after writing the essays.  Finally, participants were asked to fill out anonymous ballots about whether budget cuts should be made to the Asian Students’ Association.  A scenario was presented to make it seem as though there were legitimate reasons to cut the budget, and the exercise was intended to measure subtle discrimination against Asians.  The results showed that participants who showed strong racist tendencies and were exposed to hypocrisy-inducing conditions showed a reduction in prejudice toward Asians.  In fact, they seemed to attempt to make up for their prejudicial behaviors by refusing to cut the budget to the Asian Students’ Association and some even proposed awarding additional funds.

This study by Hing and colleagues suggests that making aversive racists aware of the fact that their words and actions are at odds with their egalitarian beliefs may create dissonance.  This dissonance may make an aversive racist uncomfortable enough to change their ways in order to resolve these negative feelings.

The next time you hear the words, “I’m not racist, but…” followed by a racist statement, it may be helpful to gently make the individual aware of the racist implications of his or her comments.  While they may not respond well to sound reasoning, their own discomfort may be enough to cause them to change their ways.

History.com Staff. (2009). Ku Klux Klan. Retrieved February 24, 2017, from http://www.history.com/topics/ku-klux-klan
Wemple, J. (2017, February 21). Woman decries KKK leaflets. Press Enterprise. Retrieved February 24, 2017, from http://www.pressenterpriseonline.com/daily/022117/page/1/story/woman-decries-kkk-leaflets
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.

Hing, L. S. S., Li, W., & Zanna, M. P. (2002). Inducing hypocrisy to reduce prejudicial responses among aversive racists. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38(1), 71-78.


03
Oct 16

(Intergroup Relations/Diversity) Do All Lives Matter?…

…and why are so many hell-bent on saying that they do?

As I start writing this blog, I cannot ignore the anxiety and hesitancy I am feeling by doing so. I am worried of offending and I am worried that I could come off as someone who is conveying that they understand, when in all reality, there is no way for me to even begin to understand. I am worried that who I am will devalue the message I am trying to present and I am worried that my own ignorance on these matters will cause even more hurt when so much pain has been inflicted for far too long. I am most worried my words will not adequately convey what is in my heart. So who am I? I am a white woman. I am the product of an upper middle-class family. I was raised in a small city where people of color account for 6.1% of the population (United States Census Bureau, 2010). I am someone who was raised to believe that “all men (AND WOMEN) are created equal” and because of that, racism really did not exist, at least not on a large scale. I am someone who knows nothing of what a person of color faces on a day-to-day basis, but I do know one thing, and that one thing is that this is an uncomfortable subject and it is a subject that NEEDS to be talked about.

When the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement came to national attention, I was one of the first to say “all lives matter.” I cannot express how incredibly fortunate I am to have a dear friend who is not easily offended by my ignorance. I am fortunate to have a friend who was able to gently explain to me that, in the reality we live in and as unfortunate as it is, the truth of the matter is that all lives do not matter, and that is what BLM is addressing and trying to change. I am so thankful for my friend who is willing to make herself vulnerable in order to share her experiences with me so that I can crawl out of my own bubble and face the hard truth of racism and discrimination that I simply have just not wanted to recognize.

My parents ingrained in me the notion that we are all to be colorblind. I respect their intentions in doing this, but I am finally starting to understand how that mentality has contributed to the belittling of the individuals who are facing and suffering from the harsh reality of racism. When I look at it now through a different perspective, I realize that by carrying this attitude, I have been demonstrating ambivalent racism. I held the attitude that although minorities could be treated unfairly, the burden of responsibility was placed on their shoulders to “pick themselves up by the bootstraps,” and if they did, well then, they would be able to get ahead and succeed in life (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). For a long time, this soothed my conscience any time I would see the injustices and the suffering in communities that were made up of people who did not look like me.

I could be worse, right? I have been around people who demonstrate blatant racism. I have been around the people who have shouted racial slurs and have made it no secret that they thought themselves better and more deserving just because they were white (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). And for heaven’s sake, it’s not even like I was demonstrating aversive racism, right? I have family members swear up and down that they are anything but racist; they know that being racist is not a good thing, so they adamantly deny their racism, but once they are done denying that they are prejudiced, the hateful and condescending words come spewing from their mouths (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Wait, wait, I can’t REALLY be THAT bad can I? I’m not even a symbolic racist! I don’t have to preface my thoughts and ideologies with the phrase that “I have nothing against people of color . . ..” I don’t condemn programs that were created to give the disenfranchised equal access to rights and privileges like the symbolic racist does (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). No, I am just demonstrating the qualities of an ambivalent racist and that’s the least racist one!

 

I, Emily, the ambivalent racist.

I, Emily, the racist.

I am a racist.

 

Wow.

No longer may I take advantage of the privilege of trying to soothe my own conscience. So, what now? The only thing that I can come up with is it is no longer acceptable to stay silent. The only thing that I can come up with is that if I want to break free of my own racism and my own shame, I have to speak out and against the racism that is running rampant in our society, and to accept my own responsibility in its existence. I present this writing with little to no solution in regards to the stain on my own character and the stain on the character of society; I only write so that maybe a conversation can be started and with the hope that one day, a solution can found so that wounds may begin to heal.

So no, all lives do not matter. And, until that day, the day when black lives, and brown lives, and LGBTQ+ lives, and indigenous lives, and the lives of all those oppressed REALLY DO MATTER, I will stand, and I will fight, and I will no longer be silent.

**End note: I have attached a video that I encourage you, the reader, to watch. It’s about a half an hour long, so if you have some time, I highly recommend it. Two friends of mine that I grew up with held an event in response to the recent series of shootings of black individuals by law enforcement officials. Its purpose was to bring together a diverse audience and to have an open and candid conversation. The conversation was uncomfortable at times, some comments were prickly, but it was a safe atmosphere that  has hopefully set in motion the change that many of us want to see.**

(Cichocki, 2016)

 

References

Cichocki, C. (Director). (2016). The Grand Exchange: Understanding the Black and White [Internet Documentary].

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC: SAGE Publications, Inc.

United States Census Bureau. (2010). Community Facts. Retrieved October 2, 2016, from American Fact Finder: http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF


Skip to toolbar