A simple (but small) solution to the Gates-Crowley incidents

31 July 2009

There are a lot of signs around town that say “Think you might be wrong,” and it occurs to me that the people who post them may have the secret to more than they realize.

In my Psyc classes, we talk a lot about prejudice from a scientific perspective, and real-life incidents provide a nice tie-in. One thing the research tells us is that stereotyping is easy, but overriding it requires both ability (to focus and put forth the effort) and motivation (to think that there’s something to put the effort toward).

The only way that people can overcome a prejudiced response is to recognize that they may be capable of one, and that’s where the St. Crowleys of the world–whom I don’t believe is explicitly racist, but who is susceptible to bias–can benefit. So can actual racists like the cop in Boston who talked about banana-eating jungle monkeys, but they’re less likely to see the problem. I see evidence of the motivation in Crowley, but if others want to convince us that they’re not racist, then they have to see that they–and all of us, including this blogger–are subject to biases of which we may not be aware.

If more of us said, “I might be wrong,” but didn’t want to be, we’d treat each other a lot more fairly.