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 😦 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’ 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—here, 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???