Social psychology is a branch of psychology that studies how people or groups of people interact. It also covers how people view each other how they influence each other in any given social situation. Social psychology is interdisciplinary and often involves sociologists and psychologists. Therefore, the concerns of social psychology can be explained either from the sociological or psychological point of view. It is imperative to note the fact that social psychologists always take on individuals or groups of individuals as their two major analytic units (Myers, 1993).
This paper seeks to describe what social psychology generally entails and also ventures specifically into racism. Racism is dealt with on a theoretical level; before moving on to an experiential account to demonstrate an individual and personal experience of racism. An outline of the effects, consequences and lessons learned from the racism experience is also featured in the paper. Social psychology scientifically studies issues such as prejudice compassion, power dynamics, empathy, conformity, jealousy, violence, non violence, catharsis, honesty and love among other social issues that have a psychological component.
While dealing with these sociological issues, social psychologists use a number of approaches such as biological factors, cultural environmental factors temporary and acquired individual differences and physical and social environmental factors. Every explanation given on any social issue will have any one, two or more of the aforementioned approaches. This is important because any one social issue say love may be understood and expressed differently based on the culture, society one belongs to, biological orientation, physical environment and the individual differences.
Therefore whenever dealing with a social issue, it is important to state the context. Racism Racism is one of the social issues studied by social psychologists. Racism often may be defined as the belief and conviction that race is the sole determinant of traits and abilities in individuals and that racial difference brings forth an innate supremacy of a particular race. People with such beliefs hate or love people based on their race. Institutional racism represents the award of privileges or denial of rights based on race. Generally, the mention of the word racism brings forth negativity of some sort.
Racism in the Oxford English Dictionary racism has been defined in a more positive way as the belief or ideology that some traits are particular to a given racial group and these traits determine superiority or otherwise. Racism can also be seen as a system of group advantage or privilege. According to Wellman, racism is made up of beliefs that are culturally sanctioned and, in spite of the intentions involved, always defend the privileges that whites possess courtesy of the subordination of the racial minorities (Wellman, 1993).
Racism in the United States can be traced back to the 1955’s Montgomery Bus Boycott to the Selma March organized and led by Martin Luther King, it was seen that infallible strides were being made towards a racist free America but all the time the country remained behind in genuine racial reform and reconciliation. Despite the fact that it is said that in America today the prevalence of racism has reduced as compared to the 20th century, the practice is mainly practiced underground and parents are internalizing it into their children.
For example, in America today, there are stereotypes that link violence and crime to black men. This stereotype has thus influenced most American people’s attitude towards the black men. Usually, people are categorized based on three main strata. These are: Cognitive, behavioral and evaluative. Under the cognitive stratum, people are categorized based on the similarity in their appearance, religion or even convictions and beliefs. The evaluative strat6um involves a prejudgment of an individual which leads to hatred because that person belongs to a certain group such as race, ethnic group etc.
Finally, behavioral stratum involves categorization of an individual mainly through the acting out the negative attitude in the evaluative strata. It is basically negative behavior towards a member of a given group. The categorization is often an individual’s perception which results from his socialization. The socialization is mainly due to the fact of institutionalization of mistreatment of people based on their membership in a given group At one point in my life I have witnessed or experienced the practice of racism. Initially in my life I didn’t have black friends because of the belief that blacks are primitive, non important and violent.
All my friends were whites and I did not want to associate with any black or any non white at all. I also realized that most of my white friends were also avoiding the blacks. I wasn’t sure though whether the segregation that resulted between the blacks and whites within the school were as a result of white’s avoidance of the blacks, black’s avoidance of the whites or both. The only thing that I realized was that blacks for blacks and whites for whites. This continued for some time until I attended church and the sermon given by a white preacher changed my perception of the blacks and other nonwhites.
It is true that during the period I had a negative attitude towards blacks I could seriously need help from or want to help a black but the attitude I had stopped me all the time. I didn’t get to appreciate non whites as human and had no chance of getting to learn about them. The negative attitude blocked any possible chance of learning. This attitude also limited my personal choices to all white. Even when I didn’t like some of the white aspects of my choices, I had to be contended with what I had provided I did not cross the fence. Therefore, the sermon titled “things are not what they seem” changed me.
The preacher illustrated thus by inserting a ruler in water. The ruler appeared to be bent but in reality it wasn’t. The conclusion was obvious; our judgment is not always right. We therefore need to be careful so as to make decisions based on objective rather than subjective evidence. The preacher had made his point pretty well and I took him seriously. My first non white friends made me regret why I had not had such friends before. They were good, gentle, humane and even better than some of my white friends. My racist stance had really denied me a chance to grow personally.
It made me be ignorant of facts about the non white people. I had made pre judgments without concrete reasons. The experience made me learn a couple of lessons. First, I realized that before you make a stand on any issue it is good to investigate and establish valid evidence to support your decision. We should not conform to what we have been socialized to by our parents or society. Secondly, I learnt that the color of ones skin doesn’t impact on his/her human nature. Man is still man; the only difference is whether you are good or evil. Skin color is irrelevant.
We are all the same except the color of our skin which is insignificant. Finally, I realized that racism impacts on the society negatively. Economically, a country suffers need of skilled manpower because non white applicants in high ranking jobs are turned down even when they have the best qualifications and aptitude require for the job. It also leads to social segregation which leads to ignorance between groups of people. The political disintegration that results from racism impairs the unity required for development and the common good of the society or a country.
Personally, an individual becomes limited in terms of personal choices and personal growth. In my case I could not make friends with non whites even when I desired to do so because of the attitude that I had internalized Generally, the effects of racism are negative. There is nothing Godly about racism. A research carried out at the University of Michigan and University of California in 1999 showed that a city or country with high degree of racism is associated with high mortality rate. Racism affects victims psychologically. Imagine going to a school where everybody hates because of your skin color.
This particular scenario can have adverse psychological effects on the victim forcing him to skip school or classes, develop a low self esteem, avoid making friends, and have trouble trusting people among other psychological effects. The 21st century America has a different kind of racism than the one that existed 30 years ago. Despite the fact that many individuals have fought against racism in the past, racism is still existent but in a camouflaged form. (Augoustinos and Reynolds, 2001). This is why people think that racism has decreased in US because of the presentation of equal opportunity and right.
These rights are theoretical but in practice they are inexistent. The racism of American of today is often ephemeral, of sordid hatred and one of, undeclared and not limited to white against black but has proliferated to Asian against Mexican etc. It’s a more subtle and dangerous form of racism of yesteryears. The only way that racism can end is through Americans taking a personal and honest responsibility to end this kind of social decay that has done nothing but cripple meaningful relations and the best of mutual good intentions and create contempt and mistrust amongst hardworking citizens
The time for racism is long gone and there is no need to keep holding to it as if we gain anything from it. Even though it makes one feel good about himself as a result of the status assigned by racism, there is still a chance for a good feeling based on good friendships based on trust and the holy of intentions Racism is now irrelevant because achievement has been gained by a number of diverse individuals of different skin colors. The skin color is no longer a criterion for capability. It is time US and the whole world rose against this vice once and for all.
Courtney from Study Moose
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