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Psychology Today recently published an article claiming it to be scientific fact that Black women are less beautiful than women of other races. The article was flawed from top to bottom -- it was actually opinion masquerading as science, written by someone with a track record of using pseudoscience to promote discredited racist and sexist ideas.
Psychology Today needs to apologize, explain how this happened and how they plan to make sure it won't happen again. Please join us in demanding that they do.
The findings of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto suggest that knowledge of the science behind the human body might be able to help defeat racism. The study authors assert that educating individuals about our genetic similarities -- specifically, the fact that humans are 99.9 percent genetically similar -- can do a lot to diminish the meaning we attach to physiological differences.
Behind the research was the idea that people often mistakenly assume that superficial ethnic characteristics are a reliable sign of significant genetic difference. The result: Study participants who were more informed of genetic overlap between strangers were less likely to racially profile.
According to the researchers, the results suggest that people's beliefs about genetic variation are malleable. Education, therefore, could be a useful target for anti-prejudice interventions. "People without a strong motivation for prejudice -- and even those with professed egalitarian ideals -- frequently display signs of racial stereotyping," they concluded. "We suggest that people with egalitarian ideals may still exhibit stereotyping at least partly because they harbor particular assumptions about genetic variation."
We can all be guilty of focusing too much on identifying, criticizing and being frustrated by racism, and not enough figuring out how to do away with it. This is a step in the right direction. And while it strikes us as surprising that a little awareness of the biological version of "we all have more in common than we think" could do so much to alter long-held beliefs about race, if it works as well as the researchers suggest (at least as one piece of the puzzle), we're all for it.
Psychologists have long known that many people are prejudiced towards others based on group affiliations, be they racial, ethnic, religious, or even political. However, we know far less about why people are prone to prejudice in the first place. New research, using monkeys, suggests that the roots lie deep in our evolutionary past.
Yale graduate student Neha Mahajan, along with a team of psychologists, traveled to Cayo Santiago, an uninhabited island southeast of Puerto Rico also known as “Monkey Island,” in order to study the behavior of rhesus monkeys. Like humans, rhesus monkeys live in groups and form strong social bonds. The monkeys also tend to be wary of those they perceive as potentially threatening.
When four decades of research and psychology literature suggest that Black clients generally prefer Black counselors (Wintersteen, Mensinger, & Diamond, 2005; Campbell & Alexander, 2002; Thompson, Bazile, & Akbar, 2004; Speight & Vera, 1997; Okonji, Ososkie, & Pulos, 1996; Coleman, Wampold, & Casali, 1995; Atkinson, 1985, 1983; Casas, 1984; Sue & Sue, 1977; Harrison, 1975; Burell & Rayder, 1971; White, 1970; Grier & Cobbs, 1968; Vontress, 1967), it creates a public health dilemma when Black people are underrepresented in the mental health profession and overrepresented in populations that have a high need for mental health services. When Black people need psychological help in a White-dominated society, the race of their counselor can be a critical factor as to whether or not they seek and receive help. Black clients are more likely to receive mental health treatment under emergency conditions, and under coerced and mandated conditions rather than the preferred conditions that Whites receive treatment, like voluntarily and self-referred (Hu, Snowdwn, Jerrell, Nguyen, 1991; Takeuchi & Chueng, 1998). Black people often have no choice but to be seen by providers that they might not have chosen or preferred if given the chance to select a mental health provider (Thompson Sanders, Brazile & Akbar, 2004).