An Asian friend once had experienced racism while he was out in a fast food restaurant in the city. He shared how he was the third person in line at the time, but when it was his turn to order his food, the food attendant, who was a 20-something white man, simply blew him off and serviced the person next in line to him. He said that his attempts to plead his right to order fell to deaf ears for a while, until the attendant exclaimed, “Whites first. You’re Asian. ” Of course, he felt shock and embarrassment at the time the racism incident happened.
He mentioned he couldn’t believe that racism is still prevalent up to this day. Though the said incident may be an isolated case, it still is alarming that these things still happen. Clearly, racism still isn’t a thing of the past, rather, it still lingers on to the present day, hence, the term, Modern Racism. One of the laudable explanations on prejudice that explains the food attendant’s attitude towards my Asian friend is the concept of In-Group Bias. This concept states that “humans have a powerful tendency to favor over other groups the group to which they belong” (Bordens & Horowitz, 2002).
True enough, the food attendant chose to give his services to whites first because they have the “same color”, implying they belong in the same group, and tended to completely ignore his Asian customer because he is not white. If one must find justification to what the food attendant did, then one can only assume that because the country is at present extremely multiracial and multicultural, people tend to hold tightly to those in the same group as they are, because only then they can feel safest and strongest.
This is due to the assumption that the other members of the group will also tend to value him/her more than other members of the outgroup, in the event of a conflict. This is explained in the Social Identity Theory, an underlying theory to explain In-Group Bias. The Social Identity Theory explains that “human beings are motivated to positively evaluate their own groups, in order to maintain and enhance self-esteem” (Tafjel, 1982). When a person derogates a member of the outgroup, it enhances the ingroup and in turn, promotes positive self-evaluation (Schneider, 2004. )
The racist remark and deed of the food attendant aims to please his group, which are the white people, and this event gives a positive effect on his self-evaluation. The food attendant’s hostility towards my Asian friend may also be explained by the Scapegoating Theory. This theory states that “frustration is a major instigation of aggression, and when this can’t be directed at the direct cause, it may be displaced onto a scapegoat” (Dollard, Miller, Doob, Mowrer, & Sears, 1939).
In this event, the frustration of the food attendant is from his economic status, and because he is threatened that an outgroup, who in this case is my Asian friend, has a better economic status than he is, he displaced his anger and aggression by making a racist remark and deed against my Asian friend. Now, whether it is Ingroup Bias or Scapegoating Theory which explains the racist deed best, it cannot be justified that the deed was done in good taste. Of course, racism is what it entails, it is an unjust means of categorizing people, and yet it still prevails in the modern times.
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way that one can prevent racism from happening. The next best thing to avoid conflict that results from stereotyping and modern racism is to keep an open mind. References Schneider, D. J. (2004). The Psychology of Stereotyping. New York: The Guilford Press. Bordens, K. S. and Horowitz. (2002). Social Psychology. New Jersey: Lawrence Elbaum Associates Inc. Fisher, E. M. (1992). “Modern Racism and Academic Librarianship in a Period of Diversity. ” Conference Proceedings, Sixth National Conference. Chicago, IL: Association of College & Research Libraries.