Threats to Identity & Call Outs

In an earlier American English class we defined Claude M. Steele’s concept of Identity Threat as a situation by which if you are part of a group with widely circulated pejorative stereotypes, the more likely you are to care about what it is you’re doing. For example when taking a school’s standardized test, the more you are aware of stereotypes regarding yourself while taking an exam, the more likely you are to attempt to push them out. When you belong to a group that doesn’t face many of these stereotypes, it’s referred to as “ease of entitlement” – meaning you’re not as concerned in high-stakes situation about those group stereotypes. These ease of entitlement is a tricking concept to address. Since such entitlements might be the results of systematic and institutionalized racism. While it’s not a difficult concept for myself or my peers to understand, there is a more challenging issue to consider – how do we call out these racist practices for what they are?

9-9Calling out racism – the response is often negative by those being called out. Most people have no desire to be called racists, and few would actually believe themselves to be so without a repeated indoctrination into the educational world of how ideas of internalized racism and microaggressions can exist without us even realizing. This brings up not only the concern of how then to call out such racists viewpoints, but how labels and ideologies should or can be addressed through a discourse, and whether or not we should attempt a dialogue in the first place. It is easy to call out a person for their discrimination, but most will resist unless they are educated on why their ideologies or actions are racists (assuming they are the kind of person who is even capable of changing their mind with educated facts in the first place). In a way, those of us with such knowledge suffer from our own ease of entitlement – the entitlement of such knowledge. Many people have set out into the world with the belief that they are accepting and open to people of all backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles. But often when we first encounter these things we find ourselves unable to cope or respond without offending those unlike ourselves. It can take a bit of time and repeated and sometimes varying resources to truly change our mind on such things.

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