The Psychology Behind Racism and Stereotyping

Honors Guild student, Erin Gillette, wrote on one of our significant November campus events: The Psychology behind Racism and Stereotyping

     This lecture was given by Dr. Joseph Lund and was put on by MESA. Dr. Lund based the principles on Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  As we discussed racism and stereotyping, Dr. Lund encouraged us to act out of an attitude of justice, mercy, and especially humility both towards ourselves and others. Dr Lund also encouraged us to ask ourselves, “How well do you know yourself?”

     First, Dr. Lund discussed the differences between implicit and explicit attitudes. All people have pervasive implicit attitudes. Most of us tend to initially react aggressively and defensively when we feel threatened by people’s differences. These reactions, however, are not ideal and are many times laced with prejudice. C.S. Lewis stated that it is not our first thought that counts but the second. It is possible for us to change our attitudes, but we must first be willing to admit that we all have some unknown implicit attitudes that we act on subconsciously.

     Second, Dr. Lund discussed the idea that distinctiveness feeds self-consciousness. The example Dr. Lund gave to illustrate this idea was a white student in a room of ethnic students. The white student becomes aware of their difference which makes them feel self-conscious and then they act out of this discomfort. We as people tend to emphasize our distinctive rather than our commonalities. This influences our communities as we each bring our distinctness and self-consciousness to the group. As a group of individuals, community is something towards which we work, not something we declare that we have. We must focus on finding harmony amongst each other rather that unison. Our differences can bring us together if we allow them.