This week, in my social psychology class, we discussed stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. We discussed an experiment conducted by social psychologist Josh Correll that tested black and white participants on making snap judgments. The participants had to correctly shoot either a black or white target when they were shown holding a gun and not shoot if they were shown holding a cellphone. The accuracy of the participants’ actions and the amount of time they took to shoot the targets were recorded. The results of the study was that both black and white participants shot at the black targets faster than the white targets. In addition, the participants made more errors when shooting the black target holding a cellphone than the white targets holding a cellphone. If you want to check out the experiment, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–jKRLKanxY
This experiment demonstrates how problematic our implicit associations about race and gender are. The participants’ actions of shooting the black target faster regardless of whether or not he was holding a phone or a gun shows how they already formed snap judgments about the target based on the color of the his skin. The results of the study are concerning, but I can’t say that I’m surprised considering the relationship between police brutality and race in the past few decades. Correll also replicated this study using law enforcement officers, and while they’re accuracy increased, they were still quicker to shoot at the black target than the white target. The results are scary because it provides evidence for how problematic racial profiling is. What did kind of surprise me though, was that the black participants also shot at the black targets faster than the white targets. This shows how deeply the cultural representation of black people, particularly black men, being dangerous affects our automatic cognition and actions towards them. While mental shortcuts are typically helpful in making quick judgments, they are also often inaccurate and may lead to long term consequences.
The piece “Water More Than Flour” by Dionee Brandy further reinforced how arbitrary judgments towards black women may result in dehumanization at their expense. For example, police officers arrested a Jamaican woman because they believed that she possessed drugs but when she denied it and said that they can search her, they conducted a strip search on the street corner and left her there afterwards. What the actual fuck. Now I don’t know what happened to the police officers afterwards but I am quite sure that they got off scot-free. It’s disheartening to live in a country that continues allow inherent racism influence the way we see each other. Will we ever get to the point where we can judge people for who they are and not because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, etc.?