Since I began scrutinizing race and race issues closely, I’ve found myself returning repeatedly to my (admittedly cursory) knowledge of psychology. I have found the concepts that are described in the scientific literature to be incredibly apt in discussions of racism. Additionally, the often creative study designs used by psychological researchers are readily adaptable in the service of scrutinizing our inherent racial biases and heuristics. They allow us to control for, and reveal, cognitive processes that happen well below the level of our conscious awareness. While regulations against discriminatory hiring practices or forced integration of schools might be sufficient to address overt and obvious racism, the gaps we continue to see along racial lines in employment and education strongly suggest that these measures are insufficient. We must look deeper – to the root causes of racism.
I lay the blame firmly at the feet of our stupid mammal brains. We forge unwarranted connections between variables, weaving false causation from whole cloth. When we see women kept out of the boardrooms, for example, despite the line in our Human Resources policy manual that specifically says we won’t do that, our brains helpfully fill in the blanks for us – obviously women aren’t there because women aren’t supposed to be. I mean, once you remove the most obvious barrier, that’s the same as fixing things, right? If those lazy broads can’t even figure out how to walk in the door we so magnanimously opened for them, we can shift the blame right back to them, can’t we?
Of course we are starting to recognize that this isn’t true, and that these kinds of attitudes lurk well below the surface. This, unfortunately, means that we need to devise increasingly-sophisticated tools to find them. One group of researchers at Tufts University appear to be up to the task:
Please read the rest of this post over at FreeThought Blogs.