Hypervisible Invisibility and Race


Post by Olivia Cole at HuffPo.

“Khadijah Costley White shared stories from her childhood in a piece for the Washington Post, in which she described the distress and pain of growing up black and female in school. She describes the punishment she received for her frustration, and it mirrors what I witnessed in my own schooling: black girls facing bias and neglect, who are then punished for their human response. What was interpreted as a cry for help from me was interpreted as “bad black girls” from my peers. It is in this way that black children are both hypervisible and invisible: in one way, the black girls at my school’s behavior was hypervisible; subject to heavy policing and punishment, gossiped about by the faculty. But in another way, these girls were entirely invisible: the causes for their behavior going unexplored and unconsidered, their cries for help unheard.”

“A white kid at the pool party — the one who recorded the incident in McKinney, in fact — said the following: “Everyone who was getting put on the ground was black, Mexican, Arabic. [The cop] didn’t even look at me. It was kind of like I was invisible.”

“This is what it means to be white in America. To be visible for the good and invisible for the bad. We are on every TV screen, every magazine cover for our achievements, but when we riot after a basketball game or a Pumpkin Festival, we’re slid quietly to the bottom of the deck, or gently sat by the side of the road and without cuffs after engaging in a shootout with police.”

There is a poem by Ai that I quote often, in which she writes:

“what can I say, except I’ve heard

the poor have no children, just small people.”

The Good Racist People

The Good Racist People In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist. In 1957, neighbors in Levittown, Pa., uniting under the flag of segregation, wrote: “As moral, religious and […]

Obama and the complexities of racism

I just read an interesting article here about the (at first) surprising fact that some people with explicitly negative beliefs about African Americans are planning to vote for Obama. On reflection, or course, it’s not surprising at all. Even openly bigoted people of the most extreme sort– those who think black people are inferior to white people, and will say so out loud– will generally allow that there are exceptions. This is why the classic black best friend really doesn’t (on its own) show that someone isn’t a racist. So *of course* one may hold negative beliefs about African Americans and still support Obama. But it’s well worth remembering– especially given all the articles I’ve seen assuming that whole regions are not worth fighting for because there’s so much racism. (I’m pleased to see, though, that Obama’s people really don’t seem to have accepted these “give up on x arguments” at all.)

I also began thinking, though, about the effect that it has on people when they do make that black friend. Their racist beliefs may well get shaken a bit (of course they also may not). And it got me wondering about the effect that Obama may be having on people’s beliefs, and also their unconscious biases. After all, one of the fascinating things about unconscious bias is the sort of thing that can reduce it:

There is growing evidence that implicit attitudes can be changed through exposure to counter-stereotypes. When the race test is administered by a black man, test takers’ implicit bias toward blacks is reduced, says Irene Blair, a University of Colorado psychologist who recently conducted a review of studies that looked at how attitudes could be changed. Volunteers who mentally visualized a strong woman for a few seconds — some thought of athletes, some thought of professionals, some thought of the strength it takes to be a homemaker — had lower bias scores on gender tests. Having people think of black exemplars such as Bill Cosby or Michael Jordan lowered race bias scores. One experiment found that stereotypes about women became weaker after test takers watched a Chinese woman use chopsticks and became stronger after they watched the woman put on makeup. Interventions as brief as a few seconds had effects that lasted at least as long as 24 hours.

I wonder what the effect might be of being regularly exposed to images of a black Presidential candidate, or even a black President.

“We still don’t like black people”

At this blog, we’ve often discussed the complexities of understanding and combatting implicit, unconscious bias. But it’s important to be aware the the totally fucking explicit kind is out there as well.

one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them “lazy,” “violent” or responsible for their own troubles.

The title of the post is from a man interviewed for the article, whose party affiliation is not stated.