Summary of Dr. Keon West’s Video
A very short, yet powerful, message by Dr. Keon West communicated enough for a person to learn how to think outside one’s own group. There is no doubt, according to Dr. West, that humans prefer members of their own groups better than members of other groups. However, if we take the time to interact with others groups, we will learn that we can become to like them as well. As stated, the lack of intergroup contact is a very pervasive issue with serious consequences. This could not be truer that the cases of Mr. James Byrd and Mr. Matthew Shepard. Both were killed because of hate and violence arising between groups. The positive side to this is that we can become more accepting of those who are different by learning about them through programs such as intergroup contact programs. Finally, the use of ‘One Love’ song by the great Bob Marley in the short video was an appropriate way to send the message of unity. He was one person who crossed social, ethnical, cultural, and belief systems to unite a world full of different groups. We should all learn from his legacies.
1a. What is intergroup bias?
Let’s first look at the word ‘bias.’ This is defined as “a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others usually results in treating some people unfairly.” This is according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Now let’s define intergroup. “Being or occurring between more than one social groups.” This is according to the Free Dictionary. It is easy to get these definitions on the Web. However, interpreting these for one’s own self is of most importance. For example, this means that I have a certain prejudice towards people of other groups whether it is because of their race, color, religion, sexual preference or even where they live, how they speak, how they dress, etc. In addition, because of the bias it may possess, I could treat those outside of my core group differently or in some cases unfairly. I may think their ideas, beliefs, and opinions are inferior to mine. I may choose not to interact with them because they are less than. This is my interpretation of intergroup bias from my education and experience.
1b. What is intergroup contact?
This is being willing and able to be part of or having dialogue with other groups in order to get to know that group better. With knowing and opening ourselves to other groups we will most likely see more similarities than differences. For example, if I were to take the time to understand others outside my religious group such as Islam, I might see and learn that most true Islamic are non-violent in nature. They do not belong to any radical Jihad groups that plague the world with hate crimes such as bombing of the Twin Towers or beheading of innocent civilians. If I do not take time to understand my Islamic brothers and sisters, I might walk around thinking all Islamic people are inherently bad and I should try to eliminate them or avoid them. By having intergroup contact, we can see that both groups share common one objective: Non-Violence.
2. Why do we harm others who are different?
Based on my experience and learned knowledge, I feel the primary factor that pushes others to harm those who are different is ignorance. Ignorance leads to fear and fear leads us to become defensive. So, first let me clarify what I mean by ‘ignorance’. Ignorance is simply the lack of knowledge, understanding or education in anything we do not know. It does not mean we are ‘stupid.’ It means that we do not know enough of the subject matter to make an intelligence, informed and educated decision or choice. For example, if I do not know that a person can choose their sexual preference and they have that choice as a human being and are born with this inherent gene, I might be apt to believe their decision is flawed. If I am a strong and devoted Christian who denounces homosexuality, I might believe that being homosexual is against the rule of God and is a sin to which I will go to hell and burn. However, if I really dig into the scriptures, I will find that they were written by man and has changed and modified over the hundreds of years to fit the preferences of dominants groups. If I did not know this, then I would be considered to be ignorant into believing that being gay is wrong. Another reason why people may harm others is because of retaliation. As in the case of the bombing of the Twin Towers, we have seen hate crimes at an all-time high in modern America. Many who may look Islamic was physically or verbally attacked in the months and years following the incident. Those who lost loved ones or were affected by the bombing, felt range and anger and they needed to unload that onto groups whom they think may have caused thousands to die.
3a. Ways to reduce intergroup bias
As stated in the video and our book, there are many ways to reduce this bias. One way it to start programs where open dialogue happens between two groups. This interaction with those who are different helps us relate to them and understand their goals and objectives or their complaints and sufferings. Another way to help reduce the bias is to educate oneself on how to be accepting of others’ opinions and choices. As we go to school such as higher education, we will eventually learn to embrace others who are different. Schools and universities are a melting pot of different people from different walks of life. School helps us embrace diversity and accept others for whom and what they are; different.
3b. Two innovative ways to reduce bias
If I am biased towards, let’s say Islamic people. I could try to go to their place of worship and listen to what their leader preaches. I might be uncomfortable at first, but I might learn that they actually preach a lot what my religious leader preaches. This would apply to any religion such as Jewish, Hindus or various sects of Christianity. Live a day or a week in the belief of someone different and then form an educated informed decision about them. Next I would encourage those who are homophobic to make a date with a person who is homosexual. Take the time to spend one day with them, to have a meal and see what their day is like. We might be very surprised to see they also are not much different from us. Finally, try to go to a big city such as Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco or New York City and spend a week. This will certainly change the way you view other groups in the future.
4a. How intergroup contact changes behavior
Spending time with others outside of our group tends to bring us closer to their members. As pointed out in the video, it reduces prejudices between people who think they are different. Once groups starting talking they will find out that they do have common interest, goals, and aspirations. We will see that our family dynamics and the things we value are similar. The more time we spend together, the less we see our differences and the more we see our commonalities.
4b. New Example of how intergroup contact changes behavior
I will use myself as an example. I am a divorced woman after a 21 year abusive marriage to an alcoholic. I am a Hindu and in my belief system, we are married to each other until death and divorce is not well entertained. More so, talking about the reasons that caused the breakup is basically unheard of. Mentioning specifics is not a normal behavior within our group. Our most used reasons could be the following: It did not work out, we were having trouble or just say nothing. I felt out of place, unaccepted and misunderstood after my divorce. I felt I was in a new group that has very few members. Here is how I approached my situation. When I was asked what happened, I stated the truth. My husband is an alcoholic, he abused me physically at the first onset of our marriage and continued to abuse me verbally for many years and later abused me financially and sexually. Was I shunned? No, on the contrary many women and a few men started to sympathize with me and even shared their own stories of struggles. Not to give you a play by play, but I now find that I am welcomed most places I go. Temples now allow me to speak on the platform of domestic violence, I participate in marches and awareness rallies, and I am welcomed and understood. This goes back to what Dr. West said in the video; when we start talking and sharing with others who are difference, we start to build bridges and mutual respect arises.
5a. Barriers to intergroup: Three from film or book
There are some barriers to intergroup contact according to our book and the video. First, there is a belief that if we try to reach out to other groups with whom we have an adverse relationship with, then reaching out will further aggravate the situation and create more hostility between the groups. Next, there is also a belief that the contact may not make any different because each group is set in their own ways and ways of thinking and doing things. Finally, reaching out with out-groups may seem to be a betrayal of our current group where we are expected to remain loyal.
5b. Two new barrier methods of my own
First, I think that we might have fears that if we reach out to other groups, we are going to lose our identity and become like the members of the other group. This is a barrier that I had personal experience with. I found over the years since I am divorced, I find that people who are married that may have some underlying issues, may think that hanging out or communicating with me might lead their partners to get the idea that they too can get a divorce. This is mostly the reaction from husbands who tend to be controlling of their wives. My breaking out of social expectations becomes a threat. I would call this; behavior change by association. A second example I would use is around those who are homosexual. Due to ignorance, there are some who might believe that if you have a friendship with a homosexual person, then you are either homosexual yourself or you will become homosexual. I believe the understanding in certain generation, especially the older generation and the ill-educated, might urge their children at very young ages to avoid talking to, being friends with and to avoid gays and lesbians. I would call this barrier lack of factual information or ignorance.
Jones, J.M., Dovidio, J.F., and Vietze, D.L. (2014). The Psychology of Diversity. Wiley Blackwell.
West, K. (2011). Intergroup Contact. You Tube. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYDzhrYwGTM#t=10>