The Need to Change the Way We Talk, Think, and Act on Race

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  • 1. The Need to Change theWay We Talk, Think, and Act on Race john a. powell Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, Moritz College of Law OSU Authors and Conversation Soul Food Luncheon Series October 22, 2010
  • 2. Talking about Race: Language and Implicit Bias 2
  • 3. Perceptions of RacismPre-Obama Post-Obama POST-RACIAL HATEFUL BEYOND RACE INDIVIDUAL RACISM=DEAD PERSONAL EXPLICIT CONSCIOUS 3
  • 4. Types of Racism Individual Institutional Structural Racialization 4
  • 5. “Much of what we call race isnonphenotypical.All of what we call race is nonbiological.Race is a process.” ~john powell 5
  • 6. Race in the Media John Stossel on the Civil Shirley Sherrod, Rights Act USDA official falsely accused Arizona’s SB 1070 Video clip of racial immigration law & (start at 1:40) discrimination racial profiling fears Video clip Video clip 6
  • 7. Why Is It Difficult to Talk about Race? U.S. history of violence, repression, and injustice toward people of color Feelings of resentment, guilt, and hostility Fear of stigmatizing groups and creating self-fulfilling prophecies Lack of information about consequences of racial inequality Failure to actively envision a “true democracy” Fear of being labeled a racist Lack of practice! Implicit bias (unconscious) 7
  • 8. Race Neutrality?  The question is not if we should talk about race, but how we should talk about race  Race-neutral tactics may appear to have appeal, but in reality, we’re not seeking race-neutrality—we’re seeking racial fairness  Colorblindness is not an appropriate shift in how we perceive race  Colorblindness will not end racism8
  • 9. Talking about race can reinforce our conscious beliefs or challenge our implicit bias 9
  • 10. Implicit Bias Racial attitudes operate in ourunconscious (subconscious) mind They are usually invisible to us but significantly influence our position on critical issues Negative unconscious attitudes about race are called “implicit bias” 10
  • 11.  Only 2% of emotional cognition is available to us consciously Messages can be “framed” to speak to our unconscious Racial bias tends to reside in the unconscious network 11
  • 12. The Dancing Girl & Cat Illusions 12
  • 13. The Dancing Girl & Cat Illusions How did you see them? Can you change how you look at them? They don’t change directions 13
  • 14. Where is this family sitting?Your response is indicative of your cultural orientation 14
  • 15. What colors are the following lines of text? 15
  • 16. What colors are the following lines of text? 16
  • 17. What colors are the following lines of text? 17
  • 18. What colors are the following lines of text? 18
  • 19. What colors are the following lines of text? 19
  • 20. Tim Wise http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/8601383 20
  • 21. Dos and Don’ts of Talking about Race •Frame the discussion using the •Present disparities only Don’t norms & values of the audienceDo •Anchor to their narratives •Frame action as robbing Peter to pay Paul •In the story you tell, make sure everyone can see themselves •Separate out people in need from •“Us”—not just “those people” “everybody else” •Acknowledge that individualism is •Glide over real fears, shared important and that the healthiest suffering, or the fact that people individual is nurtured by a are often internally divided community invested in everyone’s success •Dismiss the importance of individual efforts •Emphasize shared, deep values 21
  • 22. Framing Conversations • Focus on terms that bring people together rather than those that are divisive Unity • A “we” perspective rather than an “us/them” mindset • “We the people” recognizes all the people Linked • The fates of all people are linked • We need to understand the effect Fate that institutional arrangements have on all individuals 22
  • 23. Word Choice Matters Using “minority” to refer topeople of color is outdated and tends to carry a subordinate connotation Whites are projected to no longer be a statistical minority by 2042 •Majority minority cities already exist •Is the context numeric or sociological? 23
  • 24. Highlight Deep Shared Values Unity Security Opportunity Community Mobility Redemption Fairness Liberty 24
  • 25. Create an Empathetic Space “I am the son of a Black man from Kenya and a White woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a White grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Pattons Army during World War II and a White grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas… I am married to a Black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners—an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” ~President Barack Obama 25
  • 26. A Transformative Agenda Transformative change in the racial paradigm in the U.S. requires substantive efforts in three areas Talking about race: Understanding how language and messages shape reality and the perception of reality Thinking about race: Understanding how framing and priming impact information processing in both the explicit and the implicit mind Linking these understandings to the way we act on race and how we arrange our institutions and policies 26
  • 27. Linked Fates…Transformative Change Our fates are linked, yet our fates have been socially constructed as disconnected, especially through the categories of race, class, gender, nationality, religion… We need to consider ourselves connected to—instead of isolated from—“thy neighbor” 27
  • 28. www.kirwaninstitute.org www.race-talk.org Follow the KirwanInstitute 28