Final project for “Surprise Endings: Social Science and Literature” by Billy Marsden, Dana Fenster, Evan Shea, and Zanele Munyikwa
Race is an extremely prevalent aspect of our society, yet one that we often try to ignore. The societal pressure to appear color blind, or as if we do not notice race at all, has created a world of overly politically correct social interactions. In this desire to appear politically correct and avoid being deemed a “racist,” we ignore persistent prejudices and privileges between races. Not only is color blindness neither realistic nor achievable, it also hinders our ability to address race in a meaningful way. In this lesson, we introduce an alternative to color blindess: color consciousness. Color consciousness is the act of acknowledging race, understanding the disparities and differences that may exist between races, and working to ameliorate the disparities and appreciate the differences.
After completing the readings listed below, please visit surpriseendingsrace.tumblr.com and follow the lessons there. Upon completing this lesson, we hope you will come away with a better grasp of the difference between color blindness and color consciousness, as well as a more productive understanding of race overall.
- Adeline Koh’s Trading Races (Please read the first 5 tabs: Summary, About the Game, Historical Context, Gameplay, and Game Concept Map): http://tradingraces.adelinekoh.org/
Social Sciences Studies
- A Class Divided: PBS documentary: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/etc/view.html
- Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?: http://www.chicagobooth.edu/capideas/spring03/racialbias.html
- Color Blindness and Interracial Interaction: http://web.mit.edu/epa1/www/CB_PsychSci_2006.pdf
- To Kill A Mockingbird
- Affirmative Action: http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/rethink-affirmative-action
- Equal Pay: http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/equal-pay-anti-feminist
Introduction, Survey and Results
The results below from a survey administered at Duke University, show that students have a fear of discussing and addressing race. There is an extreme risk-aversion to appearing racist by addressing disparities between races, even if these disparities are factually correct. These students seek to appear color blind, yet, in their attempt to be overly politically correct, are avoiding productive discussions about race. As we will see throughout this lesson, this has many ramifications for our actions and on society. Read more.
Before we begin our discussion about race, we would like to define color blindness and color consciousness. Color blindness is the attempt to appear as if one does not notice race at all. On the other hand, color consciousness is the act of acknowledging race, acknowledging disparities that may exist between races, and attempting to reconcile these disparities. Throughout this lesson, we will argue that the second is much more productive than the first. Read more.
Professor Adeline Koh, our guest interviewee, developed Trading Races, a historical, “reacting to the past” role playing game set at the University of Michigan in 2003. Watch videos of Professor Koh discussing the program, student reactions after having played it, and Professor Ariely’s opinions on this controversial topic.
Prejudice and Privilege
Color consciousness involves acknowledging the prejudices and privileges associated with race. Watch videos of Professor Davidson and Professor Koh discuss different aspects of this.
The following exercise will enable you to think about race in a more conscious way, by asking you to consider your own privilege.
Professor Dan Ariely has experimented on almost every aspect of human behavior, and race is no exception. He describes his experiment testing how politically correct we really are. Read more.
In this final video, Professor Koh talks about her game and how it relates to the main premise of color blindness versus color consciousness. This clip summarizes not only the theme of her Trading Races game, but it also touches on the heart of our project’s theme: in order to achieve a state of true color blindness, as envisioned by Martin Luther King, Jr., we must as a society become color conscious. In short, color blindness is impossible without color conciousness.
In completing this lesson, we hope you’ve come away with an understanding of the difference between color blindness and color consciousness, and how each contributes to our attitudes toward race, prejudice, privilege, and political correctness.