On Wednesday, a young white man named Dylann Roof killed nine black people at prayer in South Carolina. Some have called it racism. Others say it was a crazy, isolated act. “He was one of these whacked out kids,” said Senator Lindsey Graham. “I don’t think it’s anything broader than that.” Does Graham have a … Continue reading »
Othering, Belonging, and Impermanence
I’m writing to you from the Othering & Belonging conference in Oakland, California, sponsored by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. I wanted to attend because of the title: it’s rare that a conference will try to dialectically encompass both a problem and a solution in its own name. The name suggests both dystopian … Continue reading »
Why Gov. Nixon has to remove prosecutor
We are a long way from knowing precisely what happened in Ferguson, two weeks ago, but one thing is clear: The town’s name has become yet another synonym for the chasm of experience dividing white and black America. Time and again, young African-American men have been fatally shot by police under ambiguous circumstances: Amadou Diallo, … Continue reading »
What does prejudice reveal about what it means to be human?
The questions raised by racism and xenophobia go straight to the heart of what it means to be human, for they involve dehumanization. Prejudice means we implicitly embrace a definition of humanity that includes some — usually those who most resemble us — and excludes others. That’s why Susan T. Fiske was invited to speak … Continue reading »
Does White identity predict positive or negative attitudes towards diversity?
In recent years, research on White identity has gained traction in the psychological literature, as researchers and clinicians have grown to realize that this group also struggles with questions such as, “what does it mean to be White in my culture,” and “what does being White mean to me?” One of the most interesting– and … Continue reading »
Accusations of discrimination: Finger pointing vs. teachable moments
So, two guys walk into a bar… and quite suddenly this story turns unfunny. As reported here, two African American men sitting at a bar in Georgia were apparently asked to vacate their seats so that the seats could be given to two White women. At issue is whether this is a case of racial … Continue reading »
Can empathy be bad for intergroup interactions?
You’d think it’d be difficult to argue against the following straightforward recommendation: Increase empathy towards outgroups, and you should be able to reduce prejudice and improve intergroup relations. Alas, as with most things having to do with human behavior, the reality is not straightforward, and empathy is not a silver bullet against intergroup negativity. Jacquie … Continue reading »
Should we talk to young children about race?
One of the most talked-about recent studies on how parents talk to their children about race, featured in the book “Nurture Shock,” is famous for an odd reason: the study was never completed, and no findings were published. Why? As it turns out, parents had signed up for a study about how parents communicate with their … Continue reading »
Drawing from experience
Many years of studying intergroup conflict have taught me this: the world is like a coloring book, and culture our crayons. You see, the world provides us with only an outline, a suggestion, of what the boundaries of our experience should be. We fill in these outlines with our own interpretations, value systems, and behavior … Continue reading »
Racism against whites: So what’s the problem?
This story about whites claiming to be the victims of racism was briefly the lead story on CNN.com over the weekend. The article notes that whites are beginning to engage in forms of collective action (e.g., courses, rallies, consciousness raising) that follow in the historical footsteps of other minority groups in this country. That should tell … Continue reading »
Fear of the Other: An anti-American position
Xenophobia: “an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.” Unreasonable. That is the key word here: not “that which is foreign or strange”, particularly at a time when the fear being stoked is of things that are not really foreign or strange. Immigrants to the US … Continue reading »