Updated: Apr 13, 2021
College students were recruited to participate in a study about the effects of facial disfigurement on the interview process. A makeup artist applied a large fake scar to each student volunteer's face. The researchers held up a mirror so the students could see the realistic looking scar. Next step was for the ‘scar face’ students to conduct interviews with other students that volunteered for the study.
After the interviews the researchers questioned the ‘scar face’ students to see how the interviews turned out. As expected the ‘scar face’ students told the researchers that the people they were interviewing were very uncomfortable. They would immediately look away if their eyes met. They gave short answers and the scar face students could tell they wanted to get out of the interview as fast as possible.
However unknown to the student, the fake scar had been removed before they did the interview. The researchers told the students they needed to pat the scar down right before the interview, to make sure it was staying in place. But actually they removed the fake scar in its entirety.
The actual study was to determine how the students negative self perception would influence the interview. This study showed that an individual's self perception is the determining factor, not reality. The students thought the scar would make the people they interviewed uncomfortable. They expected them to not want to look at them and to want the interview to end, and that is exactly what they experienced. Their perception of events lived up to, or down to, their expectations. They thought the interview would be affected by the scar, and it was, except the scar existed only in their mind. Their expectations, not reality, was the determining factor.
This has huge implications in a society where the mainstream media continuously tells us that we live in a racist society. The media creates expectations of racism. For many people, those expectations will be the determining factor, not reality. Minority people, that believe what the mainstream media is telling them, will experience racism, regardless of the reality. The mainstream media’s constant haranguing about racism is actually creating this reality.
All of us, regardless of color, have disappointments. We may not get the job we want, we may be passed over for the raise, we may not get admitted to the college we apply for, we may not get invited to the big party. Somebody may cut us off in traffic, the clerk may be rude to us. This is part of life.
But if you are a minority in this country, and you have been fed a steady flow of information about systemic racism, white privilege, and critical race theory, when these things happen, you may perceive that you have just experienced discrimination. Because you have been taught to expect racism, you may see discrimination happening over and over in your life, even if there is no actual discrimination.
But some of you say: “Hold on! What about when discrimination really does happen? You can’t just blame that onto negative expectations.”
Well sure, we don’t want to cover up real discrimination. We have laws in place prohibiting discrimination based on race. We have those laws for a reason, and they should be enforced.
But how do you know that discrimination has actually occurred? How do you yourself know it was discrimination vs some other factor? How do you know it was not just somebody's expectations creating the perception of racism?
Some argue that statistics can prove a discriminatory pattern. Blacks make up 12% of the population, so if there is no racism, blacks should be about 12% of different groups. Racism, they explain, is why 34% of prisoners are black. They say these statistics prove black people are 3 times more likely to become incarcerated, than white people.
Are there other explanations for the higher incarceration rate of blacks? Murder rates in many poor, majority black neighborhoods are much higher than in surrounding communities. This is mostly black on black crime. JOHN HUDGINS of THE BALTIMORE SUN wrote an article entitled Homicide is a ‘devastating plague’ on black communities, and it is time we stop ignoring it. In that article he said:
“Many African American communities are under siege by black gun-toting terrorists. Children cannot play in their yards and the elderly can no longer sit on their porches.”
This is from a Baltimore newspaper. Baltimore has the 9th highest black population by percentage, and they should be well acquainted with what is going on in black communities. The high crime rate Hudgins refers to could explain a higher incarceration rate.
Black males are also about 12 times more likely to become an NBA athlete, than white guys like me, based on statistics. Seventy five percent of NBA athletes are black. Is that racism? Or is it because more blacks pursue pro ball?
I’m not arguing that racism does not exist. But in my experience, it is very rare. What I am arguing is that subjective reports of people that have been taught to expect racism, is not evidence of racism. Statistics are not proof either, when other more plausible explanations exist.
So if racism is rare, and we can’t prove it exists statistically, and reporting on it in the mainstream media only makes it worse, what are we supposed to do about racism?
Consider this: If tomorrow, through some type of divine miracle, there was not a single racist statement or action anywhere in the world, there would still be reports of racism, because those people that expected to see racism, would still see it. Hence the difficulty. To get rid of racism we actually have to do 2 things:
Get rid of racism
And get rid of the expectation of racism
We could accomplish the first, but nothing would improve if we didn't also get rid of the expectation. If we only got rid of racism, people would still feel discriminated against, they would still feel they are being held back, they would still act accordingly, and nothing would change. The sad thing is, I don't see any plausible route to eliminating the expectation of racism in society as a whole.
What is the bottom line?
Minorities that expect to encounter racism, will see it frequently, possibly daily. Many of them will not excel, because they will perceive racism is too big for them to overcome. They will wait for the government to “fix things.” Just to be clear, I'm not arguing that the discrimination they experience isn't "real". I'm saying that all of us are too biased by our own expectations to be able to say one way or the other. Just as I don't believe they can know that it is real, I can't know that it isn't real. But this perception of discrimination, real or not, will tend to hold them back.
Those that don’t expect to encounter racism won't see discrimination in their daily life. They will encounter the usual setbacks and obstacles. Because they don’t attribute those setbacks to racism, they will keep working to get what they want. As a group they will tend to be more successful than the other group.
They will find, as President Obama promised young black males, during his first term, as part of his My Brother’s Keeper program, "if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to get ahead." Obama described this as "a core American value." And to be clear, this group may just be oblivious to the discrimination directed towards them. Nobody can say. But because they are not aware of discrimination in their life, they will tend to be more successful.
What advice would I give to young people today? Regardless of your color, be the kind of person you should be. Be kind and respectful to all, regardless of their race, politics, or station in life. Get as much education as possible. Work hard, and figure out how to get around, or get over, the roadblocks in your life. Most win/lose scenarios are not sustainable, always try to find win/win solutions. Your priorities should be God first, family second, job and community third. As you go, help others on their journey. Give money, time and assistance to those who need it, without expectation of return.
If you live this type of life, racism will end with you, as well as most of the perpetual problems of society. Your household will be a refuge from racism, and if you are a minority, you will be relatively immune to the effects of racism. You can be the solution our world needs.