“Learned Victimhood”: A Consequence of The Left’s Indoctrination

The Left’s emphasis on constant, often ad nauseam discussions on race relations, racial bias and “systematic racism” have been only increasing in recent years, and especially in the wake of the recent turmoil this past summer. Their argument is that these frank, and often heated discussions while cringe worthy at times, are essential and long overdue for highlighting and hopefully addressing the issue of racial bias and prejudice in society. White people are often accused of being the ones who wish to silence such discussions, but I argue that is not the case. Rather, many don’t wish to be lectured and talked down to and labeled a racist and “speaking from privilege” if their views and lived experiences happen to differ and they bring a differing perspective. I wholeheartedly agree we need an open honest discussion on race relations, but one with cool heads and logical thoughts. Not a monologue on how whites are the supreme oppressors and that all views of people of color are to be declared infallible.

Never the less, the left pushes the narrative of the victim vs. oppressor instead of a cool headed rational debate. In doing so, they have set out to indoctrinate the next generation with messages that they are oppressed from birth onward and will never achieve what white people can without working extra-hard, or never even be able to attempt to reach their goals due to a myriad of systematic oppressive forces. Teachers, parents, authority figures, peers, news media, TV shows, movies, books etc… all send collective messages to youth of color that society was designed against them, to oppress and exploit them and that they are viewed as worthless in the eyes of white people who are “privileged”.

This is all under the guise of awareness and “education” and is supposed to affirm what they already know: They’re victims of systematic oppression. Studies the left cites argue they do know from a young age simply by being in society without overt messages, such as a famous doll study exploring children’s preferences for lighter or darker skinned dolls in the 1940’s. The obvious limitation now is race relations have changed drastically since the 1940’s! Even more recent replications of the study are prone to confirmation bias of the researchers and political pressures. Sadly even science is not immune from political correctness these days ūüė¶ Other arguments the left gives for these trendy race education indoctrination sessions is to prepare children for future instances of encountering prejudice, like a birds and bees sort of talk.

At first glance, these reasons seem like reasonable ideas, but looking closer, they have a negative unintended consequence: Children can learn they are “oppressed” and victims of society not by lived experiences, but by external instruction. Basically, for some children, their encounter with a conscious sense of being marginalized is simply adults telling them they are or will be. It’s one thing to address an instance of prejudice or bias when it comes up in direct experience, it’s another thing to prime a child to actively look for signs of oppression, such as trying to figure out if the slightest thing might be a bias incident or not!

I propose we call this phenomenon learned victimhood. This is not the conventional experienced victimhood one might encounter through specific events, but learning to have a sense of victimhood even when nothing has actually happened yet to marginalize or oppress you, but others have told you you are in fact, on the outskirts of society so you must be a victim by default. You can be socially conditioned to believe what others tell you about yourself, even if you don’t experience or feel what they say is true. If everyone I trust and respect tells me something, I’m more likely than not to believe it!

A prime yet very sad example I recently saw was from a TV show: A mom explicitly telling her 5 to 6-ish year old daughter that because she is black, she will be seen as less than by white people, and will have to work 3 times as hard to only get half as far in life. Even if there is a grain of truth to it, to make such a negative blanket statement only primes the child to see her life prospects in a negative and pessimistic light. Rather than a message of empowerment and resilience in the face of adversities she may face, it was one teaching disempowerment and pessimism. Even more sad and disturbing to me was the child seemed to show no previous awareness of a sense of inferiority and oppression, and even didn’t really understand what mom was saying. She thought when mom said the word “disenfranchised” it meant she was a franchise like a business! In real life, this attitude breeds the resentment and divide in this country over race young… Obviously, this is fiction so of course it doesn’t have the same weight as a real life example, but it reflects what I’m sure many “woke” parents are teaching their kids, and the naivete of young children. Also, what about kids and parents who watched that TV show? They too absorb the message that that scenario is a normal and beneficial thing to reenact in real life! We often model what we observe…

This has tangible consequences: Those who believe themselves to be marginalized and an outsider often under perform on tasks such as academics or work. This is called stereotype threat, due to the feelings arising from perceived negative stereotypes and many studies show this is a real phenomenon going on. Now, the left cites systematic oppression from society as the main cause of this, and argues that stereotype threat is so insidious as it is often subconscious. However, could an explicitly taught sense of victimhood and marginalization also cause stereotype threat? I think the answer is an easy yes. Of course you’ll feel less confident and able to do well in school or on the job if you are constantly told people like you chronically underachieve due to forces (ex. white privilege) outside their control! A study by Walter and Cohen (2007, 2011) observed that:

“For instance, consider a Black freshman who had a bad day. Say his teacher criticized him in class or he was not invited to dinner by dorm mates. Already worried about his belonging, he is more likely than a White student to see it as proof that he does not belong.”

Why is he so worried about whether or not others see him as belonging? Yes, it could have been due to incidents where he was excluded. But could it also be because he is constantly reminded of his supposed victimhood and the idea that it is constantly ongoing and systemic by everyone all the time? What would have been isolated incidents of exclusion in his past then would be viewed as being generalized to every instance, not just a few negative experiences. Fortunately with Walter and Cohen’s interventions, in this case diary entries and other activities to counter these perceptions, these feelings decreased.

“Daily diary surveys completed in the week following the intervention showed that, in the control condition, Black students‚Äô daily sense of belonging in school rose and fell with the level of adversity they experienced each day. To these students, negative social events seemed to convey that they did not belong in the school in general. The treatment cut off this relationship‚ÄĒhere, Black students experienced similar levels of adversity, but adversity no longer led them to question their belonging.”

Sometimes, people just have an off day and might be short with you. A professor is simply a tough grader and it’s not about you personally at all. You may not always mesh in a particular friend group and be relegated to the outskirts as more of an acquaintance. A negative experience does not necessarily have to have anything to do with you personally, but if you are told to be on high alert for any bias incident or microaggression, or seek out evidence of this victimization others have insisted is true, then you will see it in everything you encounter! Confirmation bias is a thing, people…

I do not deny that there are some actual experiences of bias and prejudice, and even implicit bias, but I do strongly believe that actual prevalence of these incidents are fewer than what the left reports… Not every negative experience happened because of your race or any other identity! We need frank and candid discussions on race, including talking about negative experiences that people think have to do with race. However, telling our youth they are victims from the moment they’re born, unable to achieve in life due to a society stacked against them and a whole race that resents them only breeds a sense of learned victimhood, rather than affirming real victimhood.

At the very least, can we wait until someone experiences an actual incident of prejudice or bias before declaring them a victim for life?

Confirmation bias anyone???

The Science Is In: Political Correctness Doesn’t Work!

Conservatives have known this intuitively for years: Political correctness doesn’t work! As described in great detail in my post Several Reasons Why We “Resist” Political Correctness, some major reasons for backlash against it has to do with the Left’s double standards and hypocrisy in applying it, the denial of safety issues, attacks on our identity and culture, and simply the fact that many people are fed up with the constant edicts and demands that never seem to stop! Now, scientific studies have given us yet another reason why we don’t respond to PC demands: They don’t appeal to our internal motivations to change.

Many on the Left emphasize actions they feel ought to be taken to create a less prejudiced society. Don’t say these words. Don’t say this as a compliment. Don’t ask that question. Don’t wear that outfit. Don’t listen to that music, watch that show, read that book. Shun anyone who thinks differently and declare them persona non grata. Put this sign on your yard. Vote for these candidates. Use this hashtag. Boycott this store, or that brand. Say these catchy slogans and buzzwords. Hold these ideologies and don’t deviate from their worldview. Think conservatives are backwards. You see this repeated in workplaces and schools through every class “dialogue” (which is really a Leftist monologue) sensitivity training, diversity orientation, safe space training, racism seminars promoting white guilt, among others.

Yet, does this even work? It certainly doesn’t for us conservatives! The Left declares you a racist, sexist, homophobe, etc. if you aren’t fully into their little teaching sessions as many have experienced. We’re not any of those things they accuse us of, yet we don’t embrace their narrow view of how “good” people should act. Sadly, to protect our careers, reputations and social connections, sometimes, we play along and parrot their edicts back to them while holding true to our own views privately. In essence, the Left’s indoctrination sessions in the classroom or the workplace merely foster social pressure to conform rather than internalized beliefs that they are correct, and morally superior.

This is where the science comes in. We all have intrinsic and extrinsic reasons for why we believe in and conform to certain things. Intrinsic motivators are our deeply held values. If we do something for intrinsic reasons, we want to do it. If we do something for an extrinsic reason, it is often because we want to conform out of social pressures or fear of some imposed consequence, or conversely, have an external reward to gain from it. Research shows what conservatives knew already: Appeals to extrinsic motivators to be more “woke” or PC such as intense social pressure and cancel culture does not work. Nor does giving out a laundry list of arbitrary rules make anyone more desiring to become less prejudiced.

In a paper published in 2011 called “Ironic Effects of Antiprejudice Messages: How Motivational Interventions Can Reduce (but Also Increase) Prejudice” by Lisa Legault, Jennifer Gutsell, and Michael Inzlicht, they studied the effects of more extrinsic, or “controlling” messages and more intrinsic, or “autonomy focused” messages on reducing prejudice. Controlling messages do just as expected, they are meant to control one’s actions. Autonomy focused messages also as expected, focus more on the person’s autonomy to make a choice not to be prejudiced as a personal moral value. The researchers hypothesized that autonomy focused messaging would have a greater effect at reducing prejudice than controlling messages.

To test this, Legault and her research partners designed two experiments. In the first experiment, participants read a brochure on the topic of prejudice. They assigned the participants to one of three conditions:

  1. Read an autonomy focused brochure.
  2. Read a controlling brochure.
  3. Read a neutral brochure to use as a control group.

Those assigned to read the autonomy-brochure read information emphasizing one’s choice to embrace values of non-prejudice. Those assigned to the controlling-brochure read the message that one needs to comply with social norms, (a.k.a political correctness) to fight prejudice. The control group only read about defining the concept of prejudice.

Afterward, the researchers used surveys to measure prejudice and screen for intrinsic or extrinsic motivations. Results showed those who read the autonomy-brochure had decreased prejudice, and those who read the controlling-brochure emphasizing social norms had increased prejudice. Even more shocking, those in the controlling-brochure condition had more prejudice than those in the control group!

Believe it or not, their second experiment had even more striking results! In the second experiment, they used surveys to measure participants’ agreement with statements about prejudice that were either more autonomy focused or controlling in nature. After, participants were asked to write a few sentences with prompts that emphasized an autonomy focused approach or a controlling approach depending on which condition they were assigned to. Results showed the same pattern as the first experiment, but even more dramatically, as there was a greater difference between the autonomy condition and the other two. Legault’s research clearly supports evidence that extrinsic motivators are not effective, and may actually decrease motivation to become less prejudice than having no motivation at all!

A second study published more recently in 2017 called “Training away bias: The differential effects of counter stereotype training and self-regulation on stereotype activation and application” by Mason D. Burns, Margo J. Monteith and Laura R.Parker reinforced Legault’s findings about intrinsic motivation being a stronger force for less prejudice. Burns and his team researched whether conscious means to retrain the mind to associate counter-stereotypical words with certain groups instead of associating them with negative words would reduce implicit bias. Counter stereotype training consists of learning to pair positive words such as “intelligent” or “competent”, with various races that are often negatively stereotyped with negative words such as “unintelligent” or “incompetent”. The goal is to eventually out compete the negative implicit associations by retraining one’s mind to associate new positive words with various racial groups. Burns hypothesized that counter stereotype training would reduce implicit bias more than having received no training.

The experiment was to have participants look at a computer screen with pictures of either white or black people and click on words that were counter stereotypical for them as fast as possible. Participants were assigned to three conditions:

  1. A group who read a list of counter stereotypes before doing the task.
  2. A group who was only warned to be aware of stereotypes but received no counter stereotype list.
  3. A control group who just did the online task with no further instructions.

Results showed that despite some positive effects of counter stereotype training, it was not effective overall contrary to Burns and colleagues’ initial hypothesis. Those who were given the warning not to think stereotypically but not trained had less biased responses than the counter stereotype condition. The researchers theorized this was because the warning was a prompt to activate participants’ intrinsic motivation not to be biased through increasing their awareness of how bias conflicts with their values. The implications of Burns’ research is that those mind-control training seminars at work or in the classroom the Left likes impose on us don’t work!

The findings of these two studies easily highlight yet another reason we resist political correctness and the Left’s agenda. In addition to being hypocritical, a threat to safety in some cases, an attack on our culture and values, and simply annoying, scientific evidence shows the Left has gone about it all wrong. If they truly wanted to make change, they would have more luck appealing to our values over dictating what we must do to appease the Left. Then again, what values do they really have? From what I’ve seen, it definitely is not about equality for all, just who they pick and choose.

This is just my own theory, but perhaps they don’t appeal to our values because we’d discover theirs and ours are not alike at all! The evidence the Left gives for their arbitrary pronouncements points to a different motive: Power and control.

So when do we decide it’s time to act on our internal values, and not their external pressures?

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Unpacking Our Cultural Knapsack: Taking A Closer Look at the Attack on Western Culture

If you have ever taken a college course in recent years, or even have been through the public school system, you may have come across terms like “political correctness”, “social justice”, “diversity”, “systematic racism”, “decolonization”, “white privilege” and others like it. These terms while describing different things, all have an interconnecting thread: The argument that US society, politics and culture, and more broadly Western culture in general are deeply flawed and immoral at the core. In this worldview, we live in a society surrounded by systematic racism, white supremacy, colonialism, and every other negative word in the book! It’s a society where “black and brown people” are oppressed, subjugated, dehumanized and cannot succeed in a system stacked against them at every turn, and where some lives don’t seem to matter. Indigenous peoples were subjugated through colonialist forces, and the country was built on the backs of those we enslaved. In this cultural dystopia, the only winners are (gasp!) white people, and more specifically white males. For the privileged class, our stolen privilege permeates every fiber of our being and while the underclass feels its sting everyday, the lucky few go about completely unaware of how simply being born into this country makes them complicit in this horrendous affair. Or so we are told to think.¬†

But to use a metaphor from the Left, let’s “unpack” some of these assertions. For those unfamiliar with the metaphor, it comes from an article written by Peggy McIntosh called “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” where she compares one’s unearned privileges with handy items in a knapsack to help you get through life easier such as money, maps, extra snacks etc… She argues that white people have more items in their knapsacks than others, and made an extensive list of so called privileges only whites enjoy. That metaphor has now been extended to mean closely analyzing and critiquing what is seen to be taken for granted or is problematic. The Left says we need to unpack our cultural biases, but has anyone unpacked¬†their assertions about our society? I want to help unpack a few major criticisms of our society and the West, (as in Western Culture) at large.

A common one heard echoed throughout the halls of academia and even at protests, is that we need to “dismantle” and “decolonize” the country and the Western World. They argue that the US was founded on stolen land, taken away by genocide from Native American peoples. In other places, they evoke the imperialism of many European countries. Because we conquered various peoples around the globe, and often treated them harshly, those who argue for decolonizing say we’re still oppressing them to this day and need to back off big time! Now, on its face it seems right, and many Western powers have let got of the vast majority of these formerly colonized territories. However, this decolonization movement has gone far beyond simply giving back certain places their independence.

Using the US as a case study, they talk about decolonizing school curriculum to tell a narrative of how evil and oppressive we were, assert that all white people are guilty of oppressing Native Americans to this day, that all of our country’s innovations are fruits of a poison tree, and academia being impartial or daring to undergo the anthropological and archaeological study of indigenous peoples, is forcing colonialism among other charges. Also, our founding fathers, the pioneers who settled the West, and pretty much every non-native American are actually immoral oppressors. Now to unpack this, no one denies we did some pretty brutal stuff in our history. The slavery of the past was wrong, and many even at the time thought so. The physical and cultural subjugation of Native peoples is also not our shining moment either.

No one is arguing we glorify these blights on our history. However, for as much as we were wrong in doing these things, have people honestly forgotten literally every human group partook in conquest and the subsequent domination over the conquered? From the great Roman Empire, to the Comanches taking over part of the Great Plains, humans can be tribal and territorial with a thirst for better resources, and power. Also, many human societies including many Native American tribes had some form of slavery. Why are these more easily overlooked? Hard to talk of “stolen land” when your group stole it from someone else. Also, calls to decolonize and reaffirm indigenous groups sound nice, but what substantive things would we do to dismantle our society for them yet still have room for us? Must we go so far as to have a self imposed exile over the lands we too now, have been on for generations? If not that far, then how far exactly must we go to atone? How much moral culpability do we have for the sins of our forefathers? Why does the West get double condemnation for what should be considered equally immoral for all who partake in it?

Changing gears a bit, one assertion a little closer to home for many is the argument that society is systematically stacked against people of color, and in favor of white people. Which means that people of color cannot achieve as much due to societal constraints while conversely, white people benefit from society’s inherent power structures so they cannot claim they “worked hard” to earn what they achieved.¬† I’ve touched on this one more in depth before, but I’ll summarize what I argued. Many of these claims of systematic disadvantage are rooted in historical oppression, much of which has been overturned legally and socially. For example in the past, black people were discriminated against in the job market and housing. However, there are laws now explicitly prohibiting such discrimination and programs like affirmative action and immense social pressure to hire a more “diverse” workforce and have more integrated neighborhoods. Getting denied a loan might be because you have credit card debt like the majority of America,¬†not¬†simply because they looked and saw you were a person of color, or someone was hired instead of you despite your stellar credentials because they were the manager’s cousin and you just didn’t know that and you concluded it was because they were white. You can’t blame every setback on “the system”.

To bring up a newer insight, many argue that white people are systematically privileged and do not deserve full credit for what they do achieve and that hard work as a way to success is a myth. The social system is the true controller of our destiny no matter what our race they argue. However, what happens when people of color do find success? They often say it was their determination and double hard work despite the oppressive forces, but wait! Isn’t that also the myth of meritocracy? That they achieved because of their individual effort, not that society allowed them to achieve success?

To highlight the absurdity and contradictory nature of this, I recently read an article written by a former minimum wage black security guard who was able to become a doctor at the hospital he worked for. Med school is super competitive, and there are countless white people for whom medical school is only a pipe dream. Yet, this lowly security guard had what it takes to climb that social ladder to a place of privilege and prestige in this country. What other countries could he have done so outside the West? And yet, the focus of his article was not on how he achieved his dream, his determination, or one iota of gratitude for the society that enabled this success, but on how he is still the victim in a society who thinks his life doesn’t matter. If social systems determine where we will end up more than our own free will, then couldn’t one argue it had to have enabled his climb up the social ladder?

On a related note, the last but definitely not the last thing to unpack is the assertion that Western Culture is built on white supremacy. The Left says that the White race built Western Civilization, and even invented the concept of race solely to oppress others, so they could twist my whole article saying I’m blowing some “white supremacist dog whistle” or something. Defending the West to them becomes about defending white supremacy. However, in that assertion, it is¬†they¬†who hold the racist assumptions. Ever heard phrases like the “Great American Melting Pot”? Or that historically, the vast Roman Empire was very cosmopolitan stretching from Britain to North Africa to the Middle East and of course contained people who looked vastly different from one another. My point in bringing up these examples is can you think of another non-Western culture that has such immense ethnic and racial diversity? Since the West has been so influential around the globe, people of all races and many ethnicities have been touched by it in some way, and many live in the cosmopolitan countries of today that make up Western civilization. Their stories too have helped influence and shape the West. Western does not equal White necessarily.

I’ll conclude by saying that in focusing so much on what makes our culture bad, we ignore what makes it good. Such as advanced technology and medicine. Scientific innovations. Lower mortality rates. Higher standards of living. A utopia compared to where some live and many risk everything to get here. Somewhere where hard work and determination get you further in life. Somewhere where everyone can belong regardless of class, race or any other label. No culture is all good, a perfect utopia where zero inequalities and disparities exist, but certainly no culture is 100% bad. Certainly not ours.

So why can’t some of us see it that way? Let’s unpack that…¬†

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