Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thinking

Having completely stuffed our stomachs, Vincent and I are now trying to feed our brains. We've both been a bit disappointed in ourselves and the limited reading we've done this year in favour of watching movies and television, and are both resolved to begin the new year differently. I have a pile of books I have bought or been given during the year, some of which have not even had their cover cracked (I definitely judge books by those), and Vincent has just downloaded about thirty e-books for the e-reader he got for Christmas two years ago. I've started on Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, which was a birthday present from my boss, and Vincent on Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, which I have read before and some of which he too has read, but still has us fascinated and talking about everything in it. We're huge fans of Malcolm Gladwell's; my favourite of his books is Outliers, which I consider life-changing and full of things everyone (particularly right-wing conservatives) needs to know, and I love how his writing is so interesting and accessible, and how practical and important his subject matter is. Vincent has been reading his blog, Gladwell dot com, which includes an archive of his New Yorker articles. They're excellent. And since he mentioned the part in Blink about implicit associations, I've done about five Implicit Association Tests (IATs) here, and I highly recommend doing a few. 

Some of my results have been unsurprising, some I feel are reflections of what I perceive to be the experience of a given group rather than my personal feelings towards the people within it, and all have made me question my associations, and what I might need to work on. My most interesting result? In the black American vs white American test, I showed a strong preference for black Americans, the options being a strong preference for white, moderate preference for white, slight preference for white, no preference, slight preference for black, moderate preference for black, and strong preference for black. About 70% of respondents are in the strong, moderate, or slight white preference groups, whereas the group I am in comprises only 2% of those who have taken the test. Why is my preference for black so strong? Vincent and I both frequently talk about positive discrimination. Black people have a history (and present) of oppression, and since I was a child, brought up on a heady mixture of Dickens, The Power Of One, and soul music, I have felt a lot of love and sympathy for those whom I consider to be in that group. Am I being racist? I don't believe so, but maybe I am wrong. As long as the world is so obviously biased towards white people, I feel as if positive discrimination is an important way of making a stand; of acknowledging the inequality, and doing something small to lessen it. For example, I truly believe that it is more important to give way to a person who is black than one who is white. Whether I like it or not (and for the record: I hate it), in my country (like many others) white is the default. So when I give way to a white person, I am perceived simply to have given way. On the other hand, if I give way to a black person, I am perceived to have given way to a black person. When I do this, I feel as if I am making a public statement that I respect black people, in direct contrast to the majority who, as the results of this test demonstrate, have (or at least show) less respect for a person who is black, and are less likely to, for example, give way to a black person.

I hope I'm making sense. I feel similarly about women. Obviously, I love men. But in relation to women, I have less love and less sympathy for men, and for the same political reasons, I favour women, and I won't stop until the world treats us equally. The same goes for poor people (though, as a group, I have little love for rich people).

I don't even know what I was planning to say about this now. But take the tests, and think about what your results say about you, and about the world. Not all of our associations are necessarily about our own beliefs, but they do reflect what we see, and if they're not pleasing, we have to do what we can to make a change. And if you're willing to share, put your results in the comments! I'd be very interested to know them.

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