Racial Attitudes in America

Racial Attitudes in America is a scholarly book published in 1972 and written by Dr. John C. “Jack” Brigham. Dr. Brigham is not only one of the most highly regarded social psychologists in the world, he is my major professor. (For non academic readers of this post, a major professor is the primary professor of a graduate student, who is, most often, a Ph. D. student. A major professor supervises the research work of a Ph. D. student and serves as his/her mentor throughout the arduous graduate school experience.) The recent racial pandemic in the U. S. A. has served as a sobering reminder of Jack’s important book, but the fact that, as Jack told me on the day I am writing this post, its painful relevance almost 50 years after its publication. In case anyone who reads David’s and my posts is, in the slightest, confused about where I stand when it comes to racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice, I will make things clear. I have never, nor will I ever, tolerate any form of injustice. I have devoted most of my adult life toward the promotion of justice, tolerance, and equality. All one has to do is look at my curriculum vita to see the titles of many publications that concern racial and gender issues. It’s no secret that I, as a social psychologist, have an expertise that, in many ways, was shaped by Jack Brigham. In case the reader needs additional proof of where I stand when it comes to societal issues, I will share another important part of my background. Dr. Jack Brigham’s major professor was Dr. Stuart Cook who, along with Dr. Kenneth Clark and Dr. Isidor Chein, conducted the ground breaking research on racial segregation that led to the U. S. Supreme Court’s decision on the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Having recently participated in the American Psychological Association’s Town Hall, “The Racial Pandemic Facing our Nation,” along with over 10,000 of my colleagues, I will admit we, as psychologists, have a long way to go to educate people about the harmful effects of racism on our society. I will continue to fight the fight for those who cannot defend themselves; I will not only condemn those who hate, I will promote positive change; and above all else, I will continue to take a stand against racism and injustice. I am proud to be part of a long line of social psychologists who work to promote a better world for everyone.

Little did I know, when I met Melissa, how immersed in the world of psychology, specifically social psychology, I would become.  It has been quite an education, and a positive one at that!  I took psychology 101, and another psychology course or two in college; more in grad school.  But, my real psychological education has been from Melissa, Jack, and their colleagues.  The topic of late has been racism – including the buzz words of “implicit bias.”  The tentacles of racism are long, and often, invisible.  Many people don’t think of themselves as racist but they still exhibit racist propensities.  Some of it is ingrained at a level that is difficult to recognize.  But awareness of the need to look beyond skin color is not that hard to remember.   Few people, other than perhaps hate group members, e.g., white supremacists, will admit to being racist.  Racism seems to me to be a continuum, from hatred to more subtle forms, and much of it seems to be part of the in group/out group conditions with which we live our lives.  But, when bias and discrimination strike in ugly ways, it impacts us all.  A copy of Jack’s book is on the way to us, thanks to Amazon. It will be interesting to see his writing then, almost 50 years ago, and to consider how far we have come, as well as how far we need to go.  I hope it is further than it seems in recent times.  

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