Race, Prejudice and Political Correctness

Monday, March 4
Evan, Zanele, Dana, and Billy

Today’s guests: Adeline Koh shares her Trading Races, Amy Unell shows her Starting At the Finish Line: The Coach Buehler Story, and Ann Pendleton-Jullian talks about design thinking.


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

Literary Examples


Please select one reading from each of the three categories and:

  1. Write about your reaction to the material.
  2. Write a question that interests you that we can ask during our in-class interview.

Please keep in mind that Professor Ariely will be out of class, and we will be interviewing Adeline Koh. Learn about her via her website  here: http://www.adelinekoh.org/ 

87 responses to “Race, Prejudice and Political Correctness

  1. Gordon Gekko

    Category 1: “Trading Races”
    1. Response:
    I found the concept of the “Trading Races” game to be very unique and intriguing. While it is often very difficult to conceptualize and understand the prejudice that others face, it is clear that the game encourages this perspective in a novel way. While I at first unsure of how the game mechanically worked to encourage this perspective, it is clear that the speeches and scenarios help students “delve” into the characters and identities they are assigned. The real question that is brought up, however, is whether or not the student can extinguish his or her true identity in adopting a new one – that is to say, whether he or she can actually quell his or her initial prejudices and adopt new ones to mirror the assigned identity. The “factions” add another interesting dimension in that they contribute to an additional layer of groupings and prejudices that may arise from social contexts and norms. Overall I think it would be very interesting to “play” the game here at Duke, as race and identity are two very important topics on campus.

    2. Question
    Does assuming an alternative racial or cultural identity, if not just for a couple hours, have some sort of carryover effect on one’s previous identities or prejudices? That is to say, does a liberal playing the role of a conservative for an hour make him more or less liberal when he reverts to his “true” self?

    Category 2: “Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?”
    1. Response:
    This is a study that I had heard of in the past, but never actually read on in such detail. I find the results of the study to be very indicative of the racial reality that we face – and that is one of inequality and lack of equity in the job market. Had Lakisha and Jamal been academically inferior candidates, than the observed results (the “whiter” names were 50% more likely to be hired) would potentially have been justified. The fact, however, was that the candidates were all roughly equal in terms of their merits and qualifications. I think that the results of this study were not particularly shocking, as it is well known that there exist profound racial inequality in the hiring process. That being said, the results are still important in that they highlight a strong need for change in the work place.
    What I find most interesting about the significance of this study is what I like to call the “polar-effect”. From my own observations, having gone through competitive private high school admissions, undergraduate admissions, graduate admissions, and employment admissions, it seems as though at the highest most end of the spectrum, Lakisha and Jamal may in fact be favored. It would be interesting to run the study again, but targeting only top employers – the Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanleys, Googles, and Microsofts of the world – with the same subjects, but with much higher accolades (2400 SATs, Summa Cum Laude distinctions, Science and Math based majors). My hypothesis is that in such a scenario, Lakisha and Jamal would be far more likely to receive more job opportunities. Than again, that is just my opinion, and empirical evidence and procedures would be needed to edify this.

    2. Question
    How can we improve upon the unconscious racism and prejudice that is alluded to in this study? Will this improve with time, or must we take active measures to reduce the prejudices that we do not consciously perpetuate?

    Category 3: “Equal-pay is anti feminist”

    1. Response:
    While I have a strong distaste for the Chronicle and virtually every publication that is published therein (nothing can be written without tremendous backlash, or outcry for political correctness, and as such, a dilution of the authors’ actual opinions), I found this article rather intriguing.
    It goes without saying that equal pay and the inequity in the workplace is a topic of major discussion and debate, with very strong opinions on each pole. This being said, the argument that is elucidated in the article is one that I had previously not considered. While I do not entirely agree with all of the points of the article, I think that the consideration of the economic and free market mechanisms that dictate pay in the work place are very interesting. One of the most controversial points made by the author – or so I can assume based on the responses posted beneath – is that women are more of a liability to employers than men, de facto their biological capacity to give birth. While this is empirically true, looking at the costs associated with medical leave due to childbirth, the author missteps by saying that this risk “should” be reflected in the wages. With this one simple word, he sets off a firestorm of comments that aim to discredit his entire thesis due to his presumed sexism, after all, “the author is a man” as one commentator states. Had the author written that the risk “is” reflected in the wages, this would have been far more accurate, and less opinionated and would surely not have garnered such a negative response. What is more, the author fails to consider one key point – women have no control over their biological capacity for birth, and so therefore they should not suffer financially because they, and not us men, are the ones who have to suffer through the process of childbearing.
    That being said, the reaction to this word choice only serves to reveal the biggest problem about issues like sexism and racism in the workplace – that it is so controversial of a topic that every last word must be carefully calculated. When this is the case, how can we ever aim to effectively and expediently improve the equity in the work place? It seems as though every intellectual discussion or debate on the topic is diverges into a firestorm of heated opinion and debate.

    2. Question:
    Are we becoming less sexist with every new female president, executive or lawmaker appointed? Or is sexism simply evolving and permeating new domains of our social bodies?

    • I think that the trading races game, in making people assume a different racial or cultural identity, is really a powerful mechanism for empathy. It doesn’t have to necessarily change people’s previous identities, but it does seem like it will help educate and at least break down the easiest barriers of prejudice. This may be a little different than the liberal-conservative divide in the political arena, though. That realm, which maybe straddles the line between racial/cultural issues on one side, and religious or philosophical discourse on the other (in terms of socialization), seems to me to be less about personal identity and more abstract and ideologically based, and I’m not sure if empathy is as effective in producing change because of it.

    • Gordon Gekko,
      As much as I agree that Chronicle articles tend to un unleash an outcry for political correctness that seems to supersede the article’s point, this is not really one of those cases. It is not the political correctness or sexism that causes the outrage from this article (at least not for me) it is the fact it is based on general knowledge of the economic principle behind the argument, if the free market really worked in practice as it did in theory there would be no need for government intervention or the provision of public services since they would be allocated “efficiently” based on supply and demand.
      If this point was explored by an actual economist and he found supporting evidence and an explanation about why no market failures were considered, especially: inequality, information failure, and externalities. I would consider it an interesting article and consider it a valid opinion (that I would disagree with). But this freshmen’s article completely ignored all the knowledge that social sciences have provided us about human behavior to counteract his claim. Women on average are better multitasksers than men, have a better eye for detail, and are more creative. Also when there are stereotypes an bias already instilled in out society which affect hiring and pay of women; those need to be considered since then hiring decisions are not based solely on a cost-benefit analysis. Also using the fact that women are burdened with childbirth and thus should be considered the less productive gender is just ridiculous. I do not consider one of my pregnant professors are less productive as her male counterparts. Also creating a disincentive for having kinds by lowering women’s wages will not have any positive effects. There are many points of this article that I can argue but I am going to leave it like at this, basically yeah this kid tried to give a twist to the equal pay dilemma, but if he is going to make such claims should consider the counterarguments to his claim and address them in the article.

    • Buck Mulligan

      I really enjoyed reading our thorough analysis here. I actually agree in the case of affirmative action and think that although it certainly helps to advance underrepresented minorities that it may have unintended negative consequences. When less qualified applicants are accepted on the basis of race, it could perpetuate negative stereotypes when those less qualified are placed in the same competitive environment as others more qualified. Further, it increases any racial tension that might exist when one is favored on the basis of his or her race – especially in a competitive environment.

    • bluedevil4life

      Response to Peer Comment: “Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?”

      Gordon Gekko, I agree with you. I feel that once you get to the top tier of applicants that are historically underrepresented they tend to be viewed as more attractive by employers and admissions officers. I could be wrong but I think that this is due to the fact that historically underrepresented groups are less likely to be high achievers than the more prominent groups in top universities and top employers and because of this scarcity historically underrepresented high achievers are viewed as more appealing. The way that the study was conducted it appears that the pseudo-resumes were not of high, top tier applicants but somewhere between average and top tier. Thus, it would be interesting if a study in the future is conducted adding top tier resumes to the experiment and seeing if there is a reverse effect for the “black names” in the study.

  2. 1. Trading Races

    I’ve never heard of something like this, and it seems like a really novel, interesting idea. I’m curious to where this might lead; I imagine that the students who participate will come out with a very different outlook on racial relations and issues in modern American society, sharing some slight similarities to what Common Ground does here. The idea that students will actually have to argue for a position (one that they might not personally, outside the game, have supported) and try to convince their peers to join this adopted side seems like it inherently raises the level of discussion beyond the often heated and emotional exchanges that issues like these inspire in people. In fact, students having to argue for a side they don’t actually agree with in order to “win” seems like they will be forced to raise the level of discussion and remain rational and somewhat detached, though I wonder how the rhetoric aspect changes how students will try to influence each other. So I wonder what would happen if this were instead set up in a court-like scenario, like what Mock Trial does.

    Question: The discussion of certain ill-structured problems, which are issues about which “reasonable people can reasonably disagree,” often entangle people in heated emotions, personal offenses, etc. How can society best move past these issues and raise the level of discourse? Also, how does technology and social media, with their seeming tendency to lower our collective attention span, impact how we tackle these issues effectively in the 21st century?

    2. Social Sciences Studies – Color Blindness and Interracial Interaction

    It seems to me that this experiment provides a modern example of the pendulum swinging too far the other way, so to speak; racial issues have been extremely sensitive in the past, so some people are now overly keen to be politically correct and hyperaware of offending people, so will demonstrate behavior like that shown in the experiment. Of course, this is not to say that society as a whole is now post-racial and that certain issues are no longer salient, because the fact that there is still outcry over incidents (the Kappa Sigma party a few weeks ago, Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar hosting, etc.) shows that is clearly not the case. However, I think it’s fair to say that certain segments of society do, perhaps in genuine response to angry reactions or perhaps fear of suffering from “witch-hunts,” find themselves far on the opposite spectrum. Taken to an extreme, this hypersensitivity can seem absurd sometimes; an example is the comedic/satirical “Militant Black Guy” segment on a UK TV show (warning, strong language). But maybe the fact that we can laugh about it says something about us too (although I wonder if British culture lends itself more to this sort of thing anyway). Although I have to admit that I have a vague worry that what I’m writing about this topic will offend somebody out there, and that probably says something about our culture as well.

    Questions: When is it justified to take offense at something? Do people have the right to take offense at whatever they want? Is that a form of free speech?

    Also, education seems like one of the most important steps we can take to address these issues (and we talk about it in terms of “awareness” and the like), but how practically feasible is this? Is it arrogant to want to “educate the masses?” How do we do this effectively?

    3. Literary Examples – Affirmative Action/Equal Pay

    I hesitate a little to call the Chronicle’s student op-eds “literature,” but nonetheless, the two Chronicle articles have been notorious and garnered quite a bit of controversy this past school year. I don’t want to start a debate or hammer out tired old points, so I’ll just make some general observations. Issues like affirmative action and wage discrimination are huge societal topics, discussed by society’s brightest, with reams of literature, many books, academic dissertations, even Supreme Court cases. Knowing this, I’m always skeptical when I read “popular articles” about these issues, because it seems like the chance that they have anything new to add is fairly slim (not to say that there haven’t been some pretty interesting ones lately: Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article and a piece on Sheryl Sandberg come to mind, for those that are interested). Even if they do, anonymous website comments and Facebook posts don’t seem to be the best forum for productively hashing out the merits of an argument either. Even in world of philosophy, the ultimate realm of argumentative discourse and competing abstract ideologies, true progress proceeds slowly and carefully. On the other hand, it’s encouraging that younger students (both the writers were freshmen, and fairly or not, many commenters were quick to point this out as a flaw) are critically thinking about these issues and willing to write publicly about them. Since college is a formative time for personal epistemology and reflective judgment skills, I would expect students to change (or at least refine) their opinions on many of these controversial issues throughout their college career. That starts with critical reflection, and while doing so publicly is maybe something I personally would hesitate to do, it seems like it could be pretty effective, although there is the danger of enough public backlash that writers are cowed into rarely expressing opinions again.

    Question: How can we best foster a nurturing critical thinking and reflective judgment environment for college students, given the controversy surrounding hot-button issues and what can often be the unfiltered, anonymous, and heavy-handed judgment of social media?

    • Regarding your points on the necessity for a critical thinking and reflective environment for college students, I could not agree more. I think one of the biggest hypocrisies here at Duke is that the everyone seems to encourage open dialogue and a diversity of opinions, but when someone actually states something that is even remotely controversial, there is a tremendous backlash that only intimidates future opinion. The Chronicle has developed into a very petty collection of words, that becomes the target of a verbal firestorm anytime these words are arranged in away that is not blatantly politically correct. Simply looking at the comments to some of these articles made me embarrassed for some of my “peers” who, under the guise of anonymity, denigrate the authors for stating their mind. The reality is that if we want to foster and encourage a diversity of opinions, we better do so intellectually and with proper comportment and decorum. It frustrates me to think that it is so difficult to do so at a place like Duke, where we have so many resources at our disposal, but I can only imagine other colleges suffer from similar problems.

  3. Adeline Koh’s Trading Races
    It’s kind of ironic that role-playing educational material is one of the readings this week. A couple days ago, due to some listless Wikipedia-link-clicking, I was reading articles about the negative perception of D & D and the supposed psychological consequences of roleplaying in general. Applying the same concept to understand differing opinions on an issue is a pretty strong rebuttal to those articles. Affirmative action is definitely a hot-button issue. I like the idea of addressing it by trying on the other side’s shoes, so to speak. Rawls, in his Theory of Justice, believed that if we formulated laws from a vantage point where we did not know our position or circumstances in society, then we would arrive at true justice. We can’t realistically do that in society- we always have our position in mind- but arguing for another view can impact and expand our perceptions. In an educational context, ‘Trading Races’ has enormous potential. Debate and discussion reinforce material better than lecture and research is empowering.
    When I argue a view point I disagree with, I temporarily embrace it. How often do you see appreciating another’s view turn into adopting that view? On a similar note, can role-play- in all its various forms- be psychologically damaging under certain conditions?

    Is PC when it comes to race problematic? PC It’s certainly a good safeguard, and is well intentioned, but when it reduces inefficiency and conveys the wrong image, the situation should be carefully analyzed. According to J. L. Austin’s speech act theory, performative language interactions can be understood as having three parts, the locutionary (the utterance), the illocutionary (the intent of the utterance), and the perlocutionary (the effect on the listener). The interactions described in this paper are examples of speakers misjudging the perlocutionary (the effect on the listener), altering the locutionary, and making things more difficult. The intent is good, but the result is not. Knowing the listener provides one way of improving the situation. If the participant and the confederate were friends, then perhaps race-designating terms would be fine. The general trend, however, may be a mismatch between the speaker and the hearer’s views of what constitutes racism. While colorblindness is perceived as a virtue when it prevents racism, it is detrimental when racism is not at issue and it instead leads to an ignorance of diversity. As someone of south Asian descent, I use the term ‘brown’ freely. Trust me to tell when you’re using it offensively, and when you’re not.
    PC in certain issues is downright terrible. I hate the term ‘collateral damage’; if the purpose of such language is to protect the public from thinking about the loss of innocent lives, then the goal itself is wrong. George Orwell lamented political manipulation of language (the ill-intentioned PC?) in his essay, “Politics and the English language” http://www.newrepublic.com/article/books-and-arts/politics-and-the-english-language#. His critique can be applied to modern academic writing (and my own writing unfortunately): we say nothing with many words, hiding ideas in verbal shadows.
    How do we judge the hearer better? When is know the other more important than know thy self? How do we stop ourselves from being PC when it’s detrimental, and how do we get other’s to change?

    Equal Pay
    I respect the writer for trying to bring a social science he is passionate about to an important issue, though I think he was seriously wrong. Interestingly enough, Smith’s invisible hand actually referred to a natural tendency for people to buy goods from their homeland while other countries may produce cheaper goods; that doesn’t change what it means now of course. Slavery was defended on economic grounds- leaving something to the market is another way of maintaining the status quo. Prejudice isn’t treated by supply and demand, but by social action. What’s more interesting than the article itself is the responses to it. Under the veil of internet aliases, ad hominem attacks abound. On the internet, PC vanishes, and raw opinions flow free. Unfortunately, many of the people who regularly comment on articles are trolls; it’s a bit like politics in that regard, those with more extreme views vote in primaries and caucuses, but not the general election. I would say that the comments in the chronicle weren’t bad overall, and those who argued points weren’t attacking, but face-to-face debate would probably be more effective at changing minds.
    Do we only speak our minds when no one can see us?

    • I found your point about the Internet anonymity and “do we only speak our minds if no one can see us?” to be quite interesting and worth considering. With the increasing influence of technology in our world, and thus the increasing capability to remain unseen and unknown, we seem to be straying into extremely dangerous territory in terms of honest dialogue for which we can be held accountable. Though we have made significant progress in some arenas, in others, we seem to only be becoming more and more polarized– whether that be in Congress, or as evidenced by the openly gay man running for mayor in Mississippi being killed in a possible homicide. We still have a lot of work to do in this country before we create an environment of universal tolerance, and I really hope that we’ll continue to go in the right directions in order to get it done.

    • I also found your last question about how we tend to speak our minds more freely once we are anonymous, very interesting. The exponential increase in the use of internet caused names and faces to be much less important than words and ideas. People see the names or pen names of the authors of the articles that they read but most of the time, readers wouldn’t even recognize the author if they met them in person. The same phenomenon is true for even a higher degree for the use of nicknames. People use any nickname they want and speak about things that they wouldn’t dare to if their names or faces were seen. I wonder why we are so afraid of being criticized or not having ideas that fits perfectly to the ideas of the people around us. Having said that, it is also interesting that we are using nicknames in this class for our posts, instead of using our names…

  4. Category 1
    The concept of this “game” actually plays perfectly into something I’ve been thinking about recently: how could we truly instill a sense of empathy and allow someone to “walk a mile in another man’s moccasins?” We’ve done our best, through conversations about identity and allowing people to tell their story, but each human being’s experience seems to be so subjective. Could we ever truly understand how someone else feels and perceives the world? The greatest works of literature do manage to see into our souls and speak the truth there, but for everything else, my soul feels utterly alone and unknowable. However, Adeline Koh’s attempt to try is completely fascinating. I think that this research and making it work is key for our nation’s future of diversity. In some ways, civil rights and talking about race has somewhat turned into a cliche or a recitation out of history books– we talk about slavery and discrimination and racism, but we have lost the true weight of those words. I, for one, would absolutely love to participate in this.

    I’d really like to hear from Adeline Koh about how she came up with the game, whether she has found it to inspire empathy within race relations, and whether or not it can be scaled up.

    Category 2
    Out of these three readings, I had past experience with both “A Class Divided” and the study about names, race, and hiring frequency. However, I had not heard of the color blind study and I found it fascinating. The tension between being “color-blind” and “politically correct” and the importance of recognizing races for who they are and embracing diversity has always been a tricky one. I know that it is one that I struggle with, as I constantly strive to be aware of my prejudices and use them to be more open of diversity. However, I was completely surprised to learn that being self-conscious about using political correct language actually leads to a greater perceived hostility. But I do find it to be incredibly important, and I think it’s something we all need to keep in mind.

    How do we toe the line between being honest and being perceived as offensive? Should political correctness exist in conversations about race? To what extent is self-segregation/greater identification with those who are more like us okay, before we cross into the boundary of de facto segregation? Is forced integration and conscious development of diversity a good thing in racially tense environments?

    Category 3
    I had read both of these Chronicle articles when they first came out, but it was interesting to go back and read them in a new light. I remember how much controversy they generated, and yet seeing them now, I was struck by how tame the articles actually were. Yes, the opinions stated in them may not be the most popular or universally agreed upon, but they were not provocative of immediate outrage or intentional harm. I am certainly biased in my own opinions as well, but if we continue to perpetuate an environment in which we flare up at any mention of racism or sexism, we’re not changing anything. I once watched a really cool documentary in which people of many different races and genders came together in one room to talk about identity, with no holds barred. Even though the conversation frequently got heated, by not backing down, they were able to come to a mutual understanding. And I think that that kind of honesty is something we desperately need.

    How do you talk about and interact with race in your daily personal lives? If you were to be perfectly honest, how would you say issues of race, political correctness, prejudices, and identity influence you and intersect with the biases you hold?

    • I think you asked some great questions about race, color blindness and political correctness. How do we toe the line between being honest and being perceived as offensive? Should political correctness exist in conversations about race? To what extent is self-segregation/greater identification with those who are more like us okay, before we cross into the boundary of de facto segregation?

      As a minority, I always feel wary about people getting overtly upset. That, to me, is an abuse of our power to hurl the word racism and demolish the majority, who are born with privilege whether they like it or not. On the other hand, I feel marginalized as a result of my lack of empathy with my own in-group members. I am constantly lost in the rationale, and further confused about what kind of political action and social affiliations I should make.

  5. Category 1: Trading Races

    1) Trading Races reminds me of a more intuitive version of Model U.N, asking students to take on roles different than their own. From a pedagogical perspective, I think that roleplaying is an excellent method for teaching. Children are natural roleplayers – so many of my childhood memories are of playing “house” or pretending to be characters from “Animorphs.” I am very curious to know how students have received Trading Races so far, and if it has been able to successfully encourage empathy and thinking from multiple perspectives. While trying to find more information about this, I found a video of Professor Koh talking about her game (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=totaHGGR1bw) and what she hoped it would accomplish. According to Professor Koh, reacting games are powerful because they force students to run their own classroom – and isn’t that exactly what our class does? I am very excited to meet Professor Koh on Monday, and I’m curious to hear what she thinks about the pedagogy behind our class.

    2) This question is for Professor Koh: Has anyone play-tested this game yet? If so, what are the results? What is the target age group for this game? How do you think teachers can incorporate it into their curriculum?

    Category 2

    1) I think the results of the study “Color Blindness and Interracial Interaction” show that we are overly conscious about race, even though we we are often afraid to talk about race openly. I think the mindset mentioned in the study (People who do not notice race are not racist, whereas those who do notice race probably are) is extremely common, and as a result we are reluctant to use race as descriptors of people. By not acknowledging race, however, white participants in the study appeared more unfriendly toward black confederates. One possible explanation for this is that participants are so concerned about not offending the confederate that they become emotionally inaccessible and disingenuous. Race is a trivial, but obvious difference, same as some people have green or brown eyes, blonde or red hair, are short or tall. Perhaps if we started treating race as just another physical descriptor, we could eliminate the unfriendly awkwardness that appears in the study.

    2) My question is about the other reading, “Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” Blind audition are used to test musicians skills anonymously, so their appearance doesn’t influence how their music is perceived. Could we use a similar process for job applications, by assigning resumes and cover letters arbitrary numbers? If so, why hasn’t this process been adopted?

    Category 3: “Literary Examples”

    I’m glad that this week’s readings included Chronicle editorials. I remember when both of these editorials were first published, and the discussion that resulted from them. I think dialogue is critical in resolving problems related to race, prejudice, and political correctness, and these articles, whether or not readers agreed with them. As for the content of these articles, I cannot help but have a visceral reaction to each, which makes me wonder — how will we ever reach consensus on these types of issues? Will one side of a debate ever concede to the other? I agree with scoobydu that this kind of honesty is refreshing, and these are discussions that we should be having on campus, however we need to avoid getting too heated (as did with the affirmative action article, so much so that comments were disabled).

    2) My question is, then, how can we best facilitate these types of discussion? What is the ideal forum for having these talks? And how do we prevent these discussions from becoming too escalated?

    • Red Smith, I also commented about the emotional aspect of having these kinds of dialogues. Per my comment, I suggested having a moderator, but because these are emotional / high-stakes kinds of topics, who knows if that will really control for escalation or personal insults.

      I’ve also read studies that it is incredibly difficult to change someone’s mind –no surprise there, I know. But basically, if I remember correctly, someone has to be on-the-fence or only minor-ly invested in the subject to be able to persuade that person. If not, it is near impossible. So maybe we should focus on the youth; by changing younger minds, we can affect the future. It’s a grassroots approach, I know.

      Also, I’d love to play-test the game, but what would be a way to measure its effectiveness? What would be a feasible / effective measure of a way we could see if this game changes people’s opinions or perspectives? It is a difficult thing to measure, I think. And it has the potential to only have short-term effects. It’s an intriguing idea though that I’d love to explore.

  6. Category 1: Trading Races by Adeline Koh

    I am greatly intrigued by this idea and how the gameplay would look in practice. While each character’s acting of their assigned role would lack the contextual depth of reality, I expect the racial/ideological role paying would certainly make participants more empathetic. The simple practice of adopting an opposing idea and being forced to defend it is an exercise in mental dexterity that would seem to contribute to finding middle ground in any contentious argument. I could see this type of experiment working well in the context of a variety of broader political debates.

    Question: What are some other mental experiments to encourage this type of empathy and increase understanding of opposing viewpoints? How might we apply these principles to other political deadlocks in which the context is certainly not a game?

    Category 2: Color Blindness and Interracial Interaction

    This study for me points to a dynamic I have observed among my peers and thought about before. There is a tangible intellectual and emotional desire to be “color blind” or above racial differences that seems supersede our true cognitive tendencies.

    As the study showed, these white people took care to bury their disposition to choose race as primary identifier. Yet I wonder: is such identification actually wrong or racist? Yes, acknowledgement of race is a necessary condition for racism, but it is certainly not sufficient. Furthermore, race, as a manifest quality, is one of the most basic and efficient ways to group and distinguish people. For this very reason, when law enforcement is tracking a perpetrator, sex and race are pretty much the first two attributes given.
    To ignore our cognitive disposition to see race in order to pander to our intellectual and moral desire to be race blind seems mistaken. Wouldn’t true race-blindness encourage people not to feel awkward about such categorization, simply accepting race as what it is… a physical (not intellectual, moral, or character) attribute of a person much like sex, age, height, or weight? We should encourage race-blindness intellectually and morally as race is not an intellectual or moral attribute, but to do so physically is a denial of simple reality, and as such, a misplaced effort.

    After thinking about what is leading white people to feel that acknowledging race in this way is wrong, while I think there are probably many contributing factors, it seems part of may be due to the efficacy of public reactions against racially sensitive/potentially offensive commentary and how they are showcased in the media. I am not suggested that any side is right or wrong, but I do suggest that we better consider the ways in which we (and the media) frame and discuss these racially-charged reactions to racially-charged commentary.

    Thus, my questions for Cathy Davidson and Adeline Koh:
    Is the offense taken at racist (or potentially racist) comments ever wrong? Is it fair to say that some reactions are misplaced/unjustified and that this is maligning the over all quality of the dialogue on racism? Is there a way we can better acknowledge the backlash that targets the actually racist/dangerous thinking from the not?

    Category 3: Affirmative Action

    On the issue of affirmative action, I can sympathize with the intellectual argument of the author. To choose race over demonstrated intellectual and personal merit seems to be against the law of universality underlying Kant’s categorical imperative. It is not a justifiable as a permanently sustainable filter to apply when choosing among college applicants.

    That being said, I also fully understand and respect the historical context and aim of affirmative action, and in that sense, support it. The idea is to help groups who were in the past disadvantaged make up ground in higher education, one of the royal roads to professional success, and increase diversity in those places of learning. Socioeconomic conditions greatly influence a youth’s ability to develop themselves in academics and extracurriculars. Resources are necessary for success and those with less are fundamentally behind from day one. Yet why is the remedy for this hard fact of life applied in the context of race? Even if it shown that on average minorities have less resources, shouldn’t the hardship or resource-constraint, not race or ethnicity, be the attribute to which affirmative action is applied?

    Overcoming disadvantage, whether socioeconomic or otherwise, is a highly relevant point in evaluating merit, but should it be automatically applied to every candidate of a certain race or ethnicity? There are students of every race/ethnic background at at Duke who have faced tremendous hardship in their lives. The admissions officers’ job is to evaluate each applicant’s candidacy holistically, and if overcoming great hardship is part of that story, then they have the prerogative to choose that applicant over one with higher scores and GPA who did not face the same personal struggle. Some may say this does not go far enough in making up for historical disadvantage or is too undefined as a method of making up for disadvantages, and thus defend affirmative action. Nevertheless, the issue begs consideration…

    For Cathy Davidson and Adeline Koh:
    Should the policy of affirmative action be sustained ad infinitum in American universities? Why or why not? If not, how might we go about transitioning back to a race-blind admissions process?

    Also: thought-provoking TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg entitled “Why we have too few women leaders”

    • Hey …,

      Your point regarding affirmative action being more so about hardship and resource-constraint is fantastic. I do think, however, that there would be a strong correlation between resource-constraint and race. If we operate with this logic in mind, then how can an urban minority of a disadvantaged background get the resources he/she would need in order to get to college? Given their lack of resources, they probably also live in a community with a poor public school system, making it even more of a challenge to get that one break to attend any university, let alone somewhere like Duke. They probably also don’t have the ability to take an expensive prep course on the SAT or ACT like those of privilege do. In and out of school, this lack of resources translates into effective marginalization of the individual, almost for life. So you see, affirmative action would probably not benefit a student of such a background because they would most likely not be competing for a spot at Duke, but for a spot at their high school graduation.

      • Your point about affirmative action is one that I have always wondered about myself, and it pretty much sums up my stance on the issue. Why DOES race have to be the defining factor over socioeconomic status? Sure, the two are definitely correlated in some way, as jatlantis pointed out, but wouldn’t the correlation be automatically incorporated if the admissions process were to simply use hardship or socioeconomic factors rather than racial factors? If black and latino students statistically are at more of a disadvantage (which they are, economically speaking), then letting in students with lower family income should reflect this, AND it wouldn’t discriminate against poor Caucasian and Asian students, who are pretty much screwed over by the whole process. Instead, what we end up with are rich white people, rich black people, rich Latinos, rich Asians, and zero socioeconomic diversity.
        In response to jatlantis’s reply, we all know that disadvantaged students lack the resources to attain the same level of academic achievement as students from privileged backgrounds, and while this often correlates with race, it doesn’t HAVE to. I don’t see any reason why a privileged black person should have lower scores than a privileged white person, given that they have the same amount of resources, and yet the privileged black person still has the edge over the privileged white person the way affirmative action works in the current undergraduate admissions process.

    • …, I completely agree that encouraging people to be less politically correct about categorizing people would be less awkward AND would allow people to better express certain opinions because they wouldn’t have to dance around the elephant in the room. But this effort could be MORE awkward if some people are “down” to be more open while others could still be offended. Do you think we could find a happy medium?

  7. Category 1

    Adeline Koh’s Trading Races is reminiscent of a game I played in a history course at Duke: we were all assigned identities and then acted out a court trial. Again, the game revolved around race and prejudice. While it was an interesting exercise, it was difficult to separate my real identity, a Cuban female, from my “new identity” as a white, male plantation owner. The ‘degrees of separation’ were too much, and it was hard to sympathize with something and someone I felt was fundamentally wrong. I can see this being a roadblock in Koh’s game. However, Trading Races has the advantage of being more relatable: I’m a college student and 2003 wasn’t really that long ago. Being an undergraduate on Duke University’s campus, race, prejudice and political correctness have been hotly contested issues this semester also. Certainly it’s a prime time to test out Koh’s Trading Races on Duke’s campus. Also, I think the length of the game and its factions could contribute to its success –our simulated court trial only took up one class period. The extended time allows for the students to really get into the assignment; also, I’ve definitely read studies that show the effectiveness of ‘pitting groups against each other.’ If this week’s team wanted to do a trial run of the game as a project, I’d totally be down to participate.

    As I mentioned above, my main reservation about the game is the ability for students to really adopt their new identity. Do you think it’s possible to shed personal biases/beliefs in order to effectively internalize someone else’s beliefs for longer than just the game’s play time?

    Category 2: Social Sciences Studies

    The study by Marianne Bertrand is not surprising –I’ve read about similar results in variations on this theme. However, the part that I found interesting was that more qualified African American applicants only got called back 9% more often than the less qualified applicants compared to the 30% call-back rate of the white more qualified applicants. This sounds somewhat at odds with a study I remember reading my freshman year in a sociology class: African American applicants with the same high credentials as white applicants were perceived as ‘smarter’ or ‘more qualified’ than their white counterparts. However, there could have been other factors affecting this –for example, the presence of a less-qualified candidate. And while this study has a more positive result, it is just a different way of corroborating Bertrand’s study: that prejudices still exist. And it brings us all to the realization that this doesn’t have a quick fix; but could Koh’s Trading Races game be a step in the right direction? Is trying to understand each other’s points of view the right way to attack this problem of racial prejudice?

    Also, what does the difference in call-back rates for the more-qualified applicants say about the way employers view African-American applicants in general?

    Category 3: Literary Examples

    Love how the two most recent controversial articles made their way onto our reading list –and of course I’ve already read them. What’s more interesting are the comments to the articles. I think the amount of comments and hits each received is suggestive of how important these issues are to undergraduates, and also a positive spin: that we’re ready to talk about these things. That we’re ready to make a change. Also, I particularly want to point out the commenter Paul Krugman’s position that an equal pay act would actually make the market more efficient. I think that’s a particularly non-confrontational, rational and fair way to talk about the issue, and by focusing on the efficiency of the market, we begin to associate progress like women having equal salaries to men as a positive thing. This kind of open dialogue is constructive and necessary in order to start destroying stereotypes and prejudices.

    My question is, do you think having these kinds of discussions is constructive, or, like some of the other commentators, does it devolve into personal attacks and insults? Is something like a ‘moderator’ necessary in order to prevent these kinds of flare-ups?

    • I find the statistic about the call-back rate for qualified African Americans also interesting. I like to think that the employers aren’t hatefully racist, and there’s something else going on. Economically speaking, a resume only tells so much. There’s an asymmetry of information. The employers are looking to invest in their employees, but the only indicator they have about whether the applicant is a good investment or not is their resume. But the resume doesn’t tell the full story, not even close. Things like work effort, tardiness, etc. don’t show, and that’s why they have interviews and referrals.

      But even then, employers might look for other indicators. Herein lies the race card: if one race is statistically more likely to have a certain trait—an important trait—than another, then the employers can take that into account. It would be stereotyping, but stereotyping based on probability. And it’s the employer’s job to select the safest investment, they might just take that into account.

      Is it wrong? The automatic response is yes. Because it is racism, no matter how implicit. But you could say that statistically speaking, Koreans are much more likely to eat kimchi than any other race. And it’s true; we do. Does that mean we can’t make statistical judgments about any race? Does it depend on what the judgment is, and whether it is a positive or negative one?

  8. Category 1 – Adeline Koh’s Trading Races
    The Trading Races role-playing game seems like a very well-taught activity in that the author tries to create a situation where the players can understand the full story about a person thinking in a way much different than them. It does not guarantee that one would really be able to understand another, but it gives the reasoning behind their current ideologies. I also think that the game has a very good sense of timing. Making the game last almost an entire day with nine session really makes sure that people are able to think about thru characters and find ways to decent an idea that is so distant to them. It is already quite challenging in our daily lives to fully understand people close to us such as our friends, family members and co-workers but trying to understand a person from almost an opposite point of view requires even a higher level of empathy. I would be curious to see the application of this game to other aspects than just race, such as gender, religion, culture,…etc.
    How realistically can we empathize at any situation with another group of people? What are some of the necessary factors for us to be able to do so?

    Category 2 – A Class Divided: PBS documentary
    This was a very interesting documentary about the change observed in third grade students after they were put into a discriminatory situation. It was amazing to see the different reactions from the different kids, one of them immediately started to react in a mean way as soon as he learned he was a member of the better-group of students, another was indignant about having been called names for being a part of the worse-group of students. Another aspect of the story that I found to be intriguing was to see the sudden change in test scores of the students from the better or worse group. I only wish the teacher had done a similar test right before the experiment as well, to have a control variable for “before” as well. I wonder if the feeling of being called to be “better” enough of a factor to just get better test scores or if it is only being a part of the “worse” group that decreases the test scores. I would predict that this is a matter of self confidence. It was not strange, however, to see that the teacher had to prompt the adult group to act in a “meaner” way towards the blue eyed group, instead of letting it happen naturally as it was in the children. This is surely due to the learned societal consequences of being consciously discriminatory. But the fact that the meanness towards “the other” is already hardwired in children and has to be forced in adults, I believe shows us something about our innate and acquired behaviors. It was also strange that even though the change happened immediately, no one either in the group of third graders or the adults dared to ask the question “Why?”, why did the teacher start to act this way all of a sudden, why is this happening?
    What are some of the real-world examples of the case about the change in the test scores of the third-grader students during the two experiments?

    Category 3 – Equal Pay
    I am sure Jonathan knew what he was getting himself into when he decided to write and then to publish this article on The Chronicle. And since it was going to be a published work, I am sure he read and re-read his piece enough times to edit those one or more words that could be misunderstood by others. So I doubt that the problem here is a matter of wording. On the other hand I also understand how even if we try to mean one thing by using particular words, it is hard to make sure that we have formulated our wording or sentence structure to perfectly imply the concept we have in our minds. In fact one of my favorite quotes from Hesse’s Siddhartha explains this by saying “Words do not express thought well. They always become a little different immediately after they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish. Yet it also pleases me and seems strange that what is of value to one seems nonsense to another.” So I am not going to go into detail about his word choice. What I do find interesting here, however, is the overall remoteness to real world situations (other than with statistical information) and surely a lack of understanding of the women’s perspective of the issue. Interestingly, when I read this article for the first time, I immediately thought about another article from The Atlantic that I read a couple of months ago explaining how women still can’t have it all (a perfect career and a perfect family). I would suggest anyone interested to read this article if you have time: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/1/
    Can women ever have it all? What needs to happen/change in the system or society for women to be able to have both a successful career and a normal family life?

    • Hey Earl Grey! (sorry, I couldn’t resist rhyming).
      It would be interesting to apply Koh’s game to other differences like religion, economic status, etc. The idea of ‘trading places’ in the religious context especially interests me- if we hold on to something more firmly, are we less likely to understand opposing views?
      As for the eye color experiment, I’m troubled by the notion that children could act that way innately. I see children as slightly amoral as opposed to immoral- the moment the teacher would tell them what they were doing is wrong, they would accept it. The opposite is likely true as well- so long as they are told that what they are doing is right, they will continue doing it, though hopefully other moral training and some innateness would eventually prevail. In the end, immorality of racism boils down to a violation of the golden rule. We appreciate laws because we fear what happens when they are broken. If a child isn’t told the dangers of what happens properly, than only experience can drive the point home. This means that the experiment is a bit like children putting their hand on the stove.

  9. Adeline Koh’s Trading Races
    1) I’m curious what the point of the game is. I think Adeline wants participants to empathize with other races and backgrounds, and the agenda forces them to tackle a controversial subject. Once you pretend to be and think a certain way, you are more likely to actually be or think it. And since the game rewards good persuasion, you have to come up with compelling reasons—reasons you might find yourself adopting. So maybe the game’s intent is to foster understanding between different races and backgrounds.
    2) How effective is this idea of trading races at getting people to understand other races?

    Color Blindness and Interracial Interaction
    1) I can definitely relate. I’ve avoided using racial markers when describing someone, but am more likely to use them when I’m with people I’m closer with. I think otherwise I can’t tell whether they’d be offended, so I just avoid racial markers. It’s like when you don’t use negative traits to describe someone—or if you do, you say large instead of fat, or small instead of short. But really, they’re just fat or short. You don’t want to appear rude. But I guess truth can be rude. And maybe pointing out race is rude. Or is it? Only if there are negatives associated with races. That would be stereotypes. It’s tricky.
    2) Is the best way of overcoming racism or stereotypes to become racially colorblind? Morgan Freeman does. “Black history is American history.” “How do we get rid of racism?” “Stop talking about it. I’m gonna stop calling you a white man, and I’m gonna ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace, and you know me as Morgan Freeman.” Is he right?

    Morgan Freeman on Race

    Affirmative Action
    1) I’ve thought about this and this is also tricky. I think racial diversity is valuable. How valuable? Valuable enough to give racial minorities a leg up in admissions? Maybe—if race is correlated with privilege. If statistically, black people were disadvantaged compared to white people—worse education, less access to resources, whatever—then that should be taken into consideration. That is, if a black person in a white person’s environment would’ve performed just as well as the white person, then that should be a factor. Now I don’t know whether such statistics exist. And it also depends on the university’s goals. Do we want the most academically gifted? The most well-rounded? The most athletic? Then what environments are considered advantageous? What should the index be? It’s all tricky, very tricky. I empathize with both sides.
    2) What should the goals of an institute of higher learning be, and what role does racial diversity play in those goals?

    • Dear Batman,

      I am so glad that you have referenced this video by Morgan Freeman. His words, which you cite (“How do we get rid of racism?” “Stop talking about it. I’m gonna stop calling you a white man, and I’m gonna ask you to stop calling me a black man….”) are extremely powerful. The study “Color Blindness and Interracial Interaction” shows, however, that this is not necessarily the most effective strategy. Based on the results of the study, I think that most participants tried to do as Morgan Freeman suggested, or at least they knew that was they were supposed to do to avoid being racist. In reality, though, trying to ignore race only made participants act emotionally distant from members of another race, because they were so concerned with not offending the confederate. Participants underpredicted their ability to recognize race as quickly as they did, but higher than predicted performance distinguishing members of different races suggests dismissing race is much more difficult than Morgan Freeman suggests.

      On the topic of affirmative action, I think you raise some interesting ideas, and I think you may be interested to read Peter Singer’s argument about affirmative action that I read for my Practical Ethics class. Singer argues that affirmative action is not a policy designed to correct the wrongs committed against a past generation, but to diversify the work force as well as the scholastic community. Regardless of whether one supports affirmative action policies, these policies do have certain consequences. For example, one consequence is that qualified candidates who would otherwise benefit from affirmative action policies will question whether they deserved to get in if such policies were not in place.

      I’ll be interested to hear how Professors Davidson and Koh answer some of these questions in class on Monday! Thanks for your thoughtful response!

    • I, too, wondered at first what the point of the “Trading Races ” game is. I agree with you that the primary purpose is to create empathy for other races and ideologies among the participants by forcing them to delve into the character of someone wholly unlike them. My next question, however, would be how we can scale up this experiment to have a greater impact. From the website, it appears as though the simulation is quite lengthy and requires a good deal of coordination, time, and effort from professor/instructor and the students. It requires participants of a certain education level. Students have to be fortunate enough to be at an institution where such a simulation is occurring. But racial prejudice and bias is a problem of a much greater scale. Though it certainly exists in places of higher education, I must imagine that it happens in other places as well. If the Koh simulation is, in fact, successful as you ask, I am curious how we can expand the principles of the game so that it is more readily available to all. I certainly don’t have an answer off the top of my head, but I would be curious what Ms. Koh thinks.

  10. Category 1: Trading Races

    (1) The class consensus so far seems to be that the Trading Races game is not only an intriguing idea, but furthermore, a likely success in practice because of how it encourages an intellectual “empathy” for those with opposing viewpoints on race and affirmative action. Overall, I agree with this sentiment. However, I think it would be useful at this stage in the blog dialogue to bring in another viewpoint. Playing devil’s advocate, what if the game actually leads to a further alienation of the player from his or her character? I can imagine a scenario in which the details of the character seem so remote that the player cannot take embody them sincerely. This might lead to a Stephen Colbert in the room, a player who says the words they ought to say as a black man or a conservative white woman, but who does so with a wink and a slanted smile. Over time during gameplay, a single sarcastic player could undermine the serious tone of the experiment. To avoid this comedic but unproductive scenario, it is crucial that the game leader cultivate an atmosphere of intellectual gravity and openness to new ideas.

    (2) What are the pitfalls of role-playing games? Can stepping into your opponents shoes backfire depending on the circumstances in which you walk?

    Category 2: Social Sciences

    (1) I first heard of the effects of racially stereotyped names on hiring in Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner (2005). What struck me then was how subtle the experimental manipulation was: no more than a name, Lakisha vs. Lauren or Jamal vs. John. That the effect of racial prejudice is strong enough to persist in these conditions is telling. In a neuroeconomics experiment of social identity that I helped with one summer, we had difficulty isolating the difference between donating money to someone in your in-group vs. out-group—probably because this other person was identified simply by the “in-group” or “out-group” label. Our suspicion was that if the stimuli had included faces, far more salient stimuli, we would have observed an effect in the brain. In the case of race, however, the behavioral results of this study clearly show that a stereotypically black or white name is enough to elicit a significant effect. I wonder whether these behavioral results could be replicated with neuroimaging data! If so, this would be strong evidence that race is a particularly salient form of “in-group” vs. “out-group” bias.

    (2) Is race the strongest form of social bias? Why is or isn’t this the case, according to your research or experience? More specifically, do visually identifiable characteristics (e.g., skin color) tend to make for stronger social biases?

    Category 3: Literature

    (1) One reason that this article was met with such backlash was that it rests on a false assumption. The author argues:

    I am not better for having “x” number of black friends or “y” number of Indian friends or “z” number of white friends. I am better for knowing people who can think critically and arrive at differing conclusions about the world and our role in it.

    These statements presuppose that what makes one “better” is purely intellectual or academic in nature—it must have to do with the way that students think, and thus, in no way with their background, culture, or race. However, a great deal of what I have learned at Duke concerns other cultures and wordviews, and was obtained through personal relationships with those of races different from my own. This learning includes different ways of using language, forms of dance, and perspectives on cultural and political issues. Although I am blind to whether individual students were accepted as a result of affirmative action policies, this likely would not have been possible without Duke’s decision to promote racial diversity.

    (2) Cutting to the heart of the argument on affirmative action, why do you support or disagree with Duke’s policy? If you were asked to advise on a change in policy, what would you say to the administrators?

  11. Category 1 – Trading Race Game

    The fundamental premise of the Trading Race game is both fascinating and peculiar: by “making players” assume the ideological worldviews of people different from themselves, the game encourages players to “trade races” both intellectually and emotionally. From this description, we get the impression that players are a part of an authoritarian system in which they are mandated to take on a view that is most likely inconsistent with their own. But why would participants be so willing to take on such a role? What incentive is there for them to pursue winning the game, either as a faction or as an individual? Moreover, I understand that the individuals would likely take on the perspectives provided to them in an intellectual manner, but there has to be an incredibly powerful interaction between players and/or an authoritarian figure in order for emotions to be evoked. It isn’t easy to walk in another man’s moccasins, intellectually or emotionally, let alone both. I would be curious to learn how such a simulation could impact an individual so powerfully.

    Should we expect players in this situation to be more active in winning by achieving the goals of their individual faction or by succeeding in their individualized victory objectives?

    Category 2 – A Class Divided

    This documentary on Jane Elliott’s work blew my mind. She so successfully created a microcosm of society with two very different age groups in a way that transformed their thinking. The disturbing awareness that these third graders had of race and of non-whites reflects the idea that we live in a society that perpetuates stereotypes and prejudices from generation to generation. We see this poignantly illustrated in this clip from A Girl Like Me. A person’s skin color or facial features are the first things we notice when we see them and from there, we assume certain things. As individuals, it is in our interest to not only find groups that we can associate with, but also groups that we can disassociate from. By disassociating from certain individuals/groups we come to define ourselves and become more confident in our identity. We are all victims and perpetrators in this cycle of perpetuating race and racism, often times through our acts of self-segregation and our jokes here and there. So when will this vicious cycle come to a stop? It’ll only be once we all come to experience what these third graders and adults experienced through Jane Elliott – the process of hurting and being hurt due to some feature we inherited. Only then can we fully understand what it means to walk in another man’s shoes. And only then will we bite our tongue the next time we try to pass judgment or utter a joke based on individual’s looks and not on their character.

    Not everyone can be Jane Elliott or successfully engage third graders and adults in a reflective exercise on discrimination. What is a practical alternative method for raising awareness of discrimination and having these sorts of discussions in elementary schools?

    Category 3 – “Rethink Affirmative Action”

    In high school, I was a strong proponent of affirmative action, viewing such a policy as necessary in order to help level the playing field for all races. I indicated my race on my college application, hoping that I would benefit from my minority status. As a sociology major, I have learned of the divisive nature of the social construct of race and decided that I would never allow myself to have an advantage over someone as equally qualified as me solely based on my skin color or family origin. Thus, ever since my sophomore year, I have always “declined to state” my race because I don’t think I could ever eliminate from my mind the idea that I may have possibly received a position or a job based not only my qualifications and the content of my character, but also because of my race. What Bradshaw fails to realize in his column in The Chronicle, however, is that affirmative action is not meant to give a minority who has inferior qualifications an unfair advantage. Affirmative action should come into play when deciding between two candidates with equal or almost equal qualifications, the only difference being that one is of minority status and one is not.

    In many college and work settings, affirmative action is necessary in order to bring diversity of background and thought to the environment. If very few qualified minorities applied to your college and/or company and you were in charge of accepting and/or hiring candidates, do you think it would be appropriate to select minorities who are clearly not as qualified as other applicants on principle and in order to maintain or strengthen diversity?

  12. Adeline Koh’s Trading Races

    The concept of the Trading Races simulation game struck me as a really engaging and fascinating exercise for students. We often struggle to empathize with people of other ideologies and backgrounds. This game seeks to create an opportunity to rectify this problem. I think it raises an important question: how can we foster empathy? I am unsure about the efficacy of trying to force empathy through a game setting: is this possible and effective? Empathy cannot be imposed upon others; empathy is organic and based on experiences. A simulation is far different than real life. And so, can creating a simulation to foster empathy actually replace living through the actual experiences of someone with a different background than yourself? Ultimately my question for Ms. Koh and Professor Davidson is can we actually promote and spread empathy or is empathy only intuited through ones experiences and personality?

    Racial Bias in Hiring

    The fact that such a deep discrimination is inherent in – and deeply engrained into – human nature is manifest throughout this research. I would like to say that this is a deeply surprising realization, but it strikes me as unsurprising. Perhaps this is the most disturbing part of this research and my reaction to it. The fact that a subconscious racism still plagues society is expected. We often live in self-segregation; this is manifest throughout our lives – in the communities we live in, in the forms of entertainment we indulge in, in the beliefs and experiences we partake in. Our society is diverse, but our communities are not. This breeds the subconscious ignorance and ethnocentrism that is demonstrated by this research. I am not sure how to remedy what is clearly a problem. How can policies change something subconscious? Can they? Ultimately, I am curious to know whether our emphasis on political-correctness distracts us from solving – or even perpetuates – the subconscious forms of racism that we often don’t realize we are a part of?

    Affirmative Action

    The Chronicle’s Letter to the Editor on affirmative action really dictated discussion and debate on campus for a few days. After its publication, I had myriad conversations with my friends and other peers in regards to the efficacy and presentation of this argument. There are two things that ultimately struck me about it. Politically, I am unsure of the role of affirmative action – I think it seeks to play an important role in furthering equality of opportunity, but I am not sure to what extent these policies meet their intention. I think the heated nature of the discussion surrounding affirmative action distracts us from objectively evaluating the impact of affirmative action policies. Secondly, I think this article – while it may have been working to make a point – is presented in a distasteful way. That is not to say the author had such intentions, but the article comes across as condescending and instead of being a constructive point to contribute to debate, it seems to only serve to perpetuate a racial chasm amongst the different groups of students at Duke by questioning the legitimacy of some students attending the University. Ultimately, I think this speaks to the vital importance of framing arguments especially when it comes to crafting arguments around sensitive issues. My question for Professor Davidson and Ms. Koh is as follows: how can we best have substantive discussions about issues regarding race and prejudice without these discussions devolving into debates about political correctness?

  13. I thought the readings and video this week were very good and thought-provoking. The video, A Class Divided, was especially poignant and made me think to myself what I have faced/what those around me have faced. Living in in a small upstate city in New York, I was the only Asian in my school and my city was probably around 95% white. I didn’t really feel discriminated negatively because I was usually the smarter one (having come from a bigger city/having parents that pushed me to do more). But still, I was treated differently.

    I think it is really hard to look past somebody’s skin, not because we are all innately rasist, but just because that is the first thing that pops out to us.
    I guess both Adeline Koh’s game and Ms. Elliot’s classroom exercise are both ways to see the other side’s perspective, but what I thought was even more striking was Ms. Elliot’s comment that she wants her exercise to not be necessary anymore. I would’ve thought that she would do her exercise every year and after a while, it would be routine, but the fact that she is aware of the negative reasons why she needs to use it is quite respectable. Also, coming from a city of 100% Caucasians, she didn’t really need to do this exercise since they never came in contact with African Americans in their city, but she did.

    As an Asian, it is hard to be very supportive of affirmative action (since it hurts our chances of getting into college), but I understand why it should be here. I don’t think the reason it should still exist is merely righting the wrongs of the past or the negative stigma that African Americans or Hispanics just aren’t as smart as other races. It should rather be because we do value diversity. I hope that it is in place because we do want diversity, and even though that Chronicle article says is against having it ‘forced,’ how else would we be able to have diverse friends if Duke itself weren’t diverse.

    My questions: Do you think prejudice/race will ever NOT be an issue or as long as parents raise their children thinking of these stereotypes, will it be around?
    To A. Ko: What/who got you interested in this topic?
    Is it feasible to expand your model or Ms. Elliot’s classroom example and try to get students to really see how it feels like to be treated inferior on a large scale, without psychological damage?

  14. Trading Races (Adeline Koh)

    I found the Trading Races game to be fascinating, especially given its setting at the University of Michigan in 2003. Growing up not far from Ann Arbor, I was raised as a diehard Michigan fan, with family alumni dating back for generations. With so many family members who have attended the university, I always find it interesting to hear stories of their different experiences at the school in very different time periods, tracking the evolution of race, gender, and politics on campus through the decades. With its setting right before the landmark 2003 affirmative action case, the Trading Races game hits a pivotal point in that evolution.
    Another aspect of the game I found notable was the duration. Whereas most experiments we’ve discussed in class thus far are fairly short, the Trading Races game requires players to spend nearly an entire day thinking about racial issues from someone else’s perspective. I think this is an integral part of the game, as players should have time to really develop and explore the viewpoint of their characters. I would be interested in playing this game to see if, after game play had ended, I would adopt or empathize with my character, or simply write off the experience as a role playing exercise.
    My question for Professor Koh is, how, if at all, can this game be used as a tool to combat racial insensitivity and discrimination in education and the workplace? What future applications do you see for the Trading Races game?

    A Class Divided (PBS Documentary)

    I was first introduced to this educational experiment on discrimination in an education class last year. Like many others, I have mixed feelings about this Iowa teacher’s controversial lesson. On one hand, I feel she taught an extremely valuable and timely lesson to a group of impressionable students, and should be praised for her bravery. To plan such a lesson in a racially charged time took courage, and there is no way the teacher was not expecting backlash from the experiment. On the other hand, the potential lasting effects that come from experimenting on children feels inherently wrong, and I am unsure how the balance lies in costs versus benefits of the experiment.
    I have two questions for Professors Koh and Davidson regarding this article.
    1. As educators yourselves, would you have performed this
    experiment on a class of third graders? In terms of the idea of experiencing discrimination firsthand, this lesson seems connected to the Trading Races experiment. Would you ever consider using a simplified version of the game with children?
    2. The teacher found a change in test score performance between the blue-eyed and brown-eyed groups. Do you think this phenomenon plays a role in the observed educational achievement gaps between races?

    Affirmative Action (Chronicle editorial)

    Despite my negative reaction to this piece (and the op-ed on equal pay for women), I have to commend both of these authors for taking a very public stand on controversial issues. Part of this week’s topic is political correctness, and I feel these two articles are both prime examples of what happens when people throw political correctness out the window. The fierce reactions to these pieces only further demonstrate not only how charged these issues are, but how important it is to at least appear to be politically correct.
    That being said, I find it difficult to agree with the author of the affirmative action op-ed. While I think he makes a good point in saying that, “I am not better for having “x” number of black friends or “y” number of Indian friends or “z” number of white friends. I am better for knowing people who can think critically and arrive at differing conclusions about the world and our role in it,” I cannot agree with his bold assertion that racially diverse students do not have to work as hard to get into college, employment, etc. To me, and apparently many other Duke students judging by the comments, there are so many things wrong with this statement. While I am curious to know your own personal opinions on affirmative action, my more relevant question for Professors Koh and Davidson is, what is the best way to facilitate discussion on controversial topics? To me, publishing an article like this in the Chronicle is not effective in creating a productive dialogue. For example, in the case of the recent controversy surrounding a fraternity’s racial theme party, what would you have done to facilitate discussion following the event and its resulting backlash?

    • Gossip girl:
      The point you make to preface your argument about the Affirmative Action editorial is extremely important and interesting. The author of this editorial took an unconventional view on an issue. I think it is clear he was not being explicitly being bigoted or prejudiced, even though for some people it came across that way. The firestorm that followed the publication of the article shows the difficulty in going against established norms. While I did not agree with either the authors presentation of his argument or the logic of the argument itself, I am concerned by the way we marginalized a different perspective on campus. When we argue around sensitive topics, are our standards to be politically correct too stringent to facilitate substantive and healthy debates? Do we sometimes marginalize different viewpoints by excusing them as politically incorrect? And, does this ultimately prevent society from having substantive and necessary — albeit sensitive — debates around issues of race, culture, religion etc.?

  15. Trading races:

    The idea of this game is incredibly interesting and a must have in out times. It is very important that we try to related and understand each others by “putting yourself” in another’s shoes. However, I am not sure of the applicability of this. The game forces people to intellectually place themselves in another’s shoes however; it is limited to the abstract capacity of these person’s minds. It is incredibly difficult. As much as players try to place themselves in this position it is not the same as actually being in it. Also the feeling associated with being in a racial position do not really come from an intellectual analysis of the situation but rather feeling wise. For such an experiment I think you would have to send students to live for a while with another culture, in which they are the minority or they are simply treated in a different way because of their race. For me this is a very interesting position since before I came to the US no one had ever asked me about my race. It was a foreign concept; all I had was attachment to my nationality. Therefore, I never considered race as part of my identity. It was been really hard for me to comprehend the value people place on their race. Question to Dan and Cathy: how much do you think the concept of race is contingent on the society you live in, specially regarding the diversity of the society.

    Are Emily and Brendan more employable than Lakisha and Jamal?

    It is really sad to see that even nowadays we are unable to strip ourselves form our racial bias. I wonder how instill are racial biases in your subconscious. We see that employers are not consciously racist, at least in most cases. This really makes me wonder how innately racist we are? (question for Dan and Cathy) We are really good at being politically correct and following the guidelines to treat everyone equally; however it seems that unconsciously this bias persists. Is it something that is genetically engraves (tolerance to one another) or something that we acquire as we grown up and learn, it is an environmental instill factor. It would be interesting to see how much this bias persists across the different job industries to see if some of them are more “racist” than others and look that the variables that affect them

    Is equal pay antifeminist?

    When this article came out it took me about three days to completely read it because every time I started to read it I got incredibly angry and closed my computer because I could not take such ignorance and really couldn’t believe it came from another Duke Student. This freshman took Econ55 (don’t know the code numbers right now) and took the simplified version of economic concepts and decided to apply them to the “equal pay” in job markets. He completely forgot about the existence of externalities and market failures in the economy. If the ‘invisible hand’ really did allocate resources perfectly there would be no need for government regulation and the economy would be in a better state, but it doesn’t. You can’t take concepts form a 101 classroom and apply them to such a complex problem such as equal pay, and in a paragraph conclude that there is enough thought and information brought into the argument to state that equal pay will backfire for feminists. Also I take offense in being called the ‘less productive gender’ based on the role we play in reproduction, on average men engage in more risk-seeking behavior and impulsive decisions, so it can also be argued based on this that men are the ‘risker’ sex to hire. I could keep writing about how much this article is based on general claims that lack applicability and it is just offensive. I just hope that his name gets googled every time he applies for a job and that it is a female recruiter and more importantly I hope he tries to justify to every female professor why they should be paid less than their male counterparts, I am pretty sure female professors in the economics department will love to do this. It is just sad that someone in the desperate desire to write something ‘innovative’ and ‘different’ end up writing an unfounded and male chauvinist article. For Dan and Cathy: what are your thoughts on this article?

  16. Category 1: Adeline Koh’s Trading Races

    Diversity is a characteristic of a community that we are taught to value. But how is it that we come to value diversity and empathize with the experiences and identities of others? On the one hand, simulations and virtual reality experiences such as Trading Races can support the development of empathy and of our own values, not only for the long-term goal of promoting equal access to education and other opportunities, but also for the purpose of contributing to diverse perspectives and points of view. On the other hand, simulations and virtual reality experiences may provide us with a false sense of empathy and understanding. I remember several experiences during high school when my friends or I participated in simulations to learn what it was like to be poor (https://www.livebelowtheline.com), or blind, or even what it was like to be a displaced person in Northern Uganda (Displace Me Project, Invisible Children). As a “blind” person I was required to navigate the school’s hallways after immediately being blindfolded. The simulation was brief, and at the time I felt disconnected from the experience. Wearing a blindfold must be nothing like actually being blind. Although I was highly engaged, I felt no empathy because the scenario was so unreal. I actually felt a sense of shame and pessimism as students laughed at those of us who were stumbling around the school. If anything, I think that the experience magnified rather than reduced stereotypes.

    Question for Professor Koh: Have you considered any downsides to Trading Races? Is there a possibility that in some cases biases and prejudices may actually be enhanced and empathy reduced when a participant takes on the role of another for a brief period of time? (Follow-up: Have you been able to evaluate the effect of playing Trading Races on empathy development?)

    Category 2: “Racial Bias in Hiring”

    “Racial Bias in Hiring” (researched by Marianne Bertrand at the University of Chicago) looked at race as a factor in hiring practices when qualifications are held constant. What this experiment does not consider is the racial identity of the employer. A valuable addition to this experiment would be to ask the employer/members of hiring teams what race or races they identify most with and how strongly they identify. I suspect employers tend to employ within their self-identified race (when they strongly identify). I would think that we are eager to surround ourselves with coworkers with similar experiences, backgrounds, and levels of familiarity.

    When minorities are hired there are additional hurdles involved in negotiating pay. If you scroll down through the comments section in the Chronicle’s “Equal Pay” (Category 3) article you will come across a comment from Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman. Krugman writes, “In reality, the market doesn’t achieve the efficient outcome because discriminated employees don’t realize they are being discriminated against and don’t know in advance whether they will be receiving the same wage as their coworkers.” Bertrand contrastingly writes, “Most African-Americans already realize they need to work much harder than whites to get a job”. Yet Krugman’s description of this market failure is in line with Bertrand’s findings in “Racial Bias in Hiring” in that this dilemma is beyond any quick fix.

    Question: Harper Lee, in To Kill a Mockingbird, (another assigned reading) sums up Bertrand (and Krugman’s) points: “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.” If this is the case, how do we honestly acknowledge our own biases?

    Category 3: Equal Pay / Affirmative Action (and Voting Rights too)

    We have different ideas about what it means to be politically correct or objective. Keeping in mind that there are many types of stratifications that exist, I (like Bradshaw) believe it will be a better world when we do not arrive at high-stakes decisions (such as college admissions) utilizing race as a primary factor to determine conclusions about an applicant. However, in reality we are not there yet. It’s fitting that we are discussing these issues this week when just a few days ago Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia claimed that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is “a perpetuation of racial entitlement.” If a Supreme Court judge can make this kind of statement in 2013 then we are definitely not “there” yet.

    From my perspective Bradshaw is not there yet either. In his letter to the Chronicle a few months ago Bradshaw argued that Duke’s admissions decisions should be color blind given that race is only one facet of an applicant’s identity. He goes further to advise applicants in minority groups (who have what Bradshaw considers an advantage in admissions) to somehow conceal their affiliation. Thus, I am inferring from the letter that students themselves should take sole responsibility for the class category that society places them in. I am genuinely confused why this Chronicle letter writer places blame for admission on minority students rather than on the college administrators who are making admissions decisions and on the system that Duke and other institutions have elected to operate within. He tells prospective applicants: “If your racial or ethnic background has contributed to the person you are today, write about it in your application essays, and write about it well. If it hasn’t, then there are plenty of other interesting facets of yourself to write about.” I believe that Bradshaw’s decision to speak to individuals/applicants rather than engaging in a critique of the social structures and systems that dictate admissions policy is a mistake.

    Question: Left of Black is a series hosted by Professor Mark Anthony Neil from the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University. On one episode Dr. Sharon Holland from Duke University’s African & African American Studies Department said, “We lose something when we challenge, but sometimes we also gain something”. What do we have to gain from affirmative action?

    • Phia, you bring up a really interesting point regarding the extent to which these experiments actually create empathy. I’ve actually thought about whether projects like DukeEngage actually end up increasing the divides its trying to break down. Researching the poor or formulating solutions for them within the span of the 6 weeks that a student is on-site can dangerously foster false illusions of superiority and pseudo-compassion.
      I’ve argued that understanding the role of luck in our own personal trajectories, understanding that we’re not Duke students because we’re the best and the brightest but oftentimes we’ve simply been given better opportunities will better serve to create empathy. We need manage to understand that the “poor” are not a foreign species but that they are just us without that same luck. But in the meantime, placing a kid who’s never seen extreme poverty in sierre leone is a good enough start.

    • Hey Phia,
      I also wondered about the race of the employee when I read the study on racial bias in hiring. I hypothesize that you are probably right about employers wanting to surround themselves with people who have similar experiences, backgrounds, and levels of familiarity. One thing I often hear from both recruiters and potential hires during recruiting processes is the importance of the right fit personality wise. Implicit racial biases may be at work when recruiters take this personality fit into consideration while giving offers. Yet given how these prejudices seem rather latent, it is hard to come up with a clean prescription or larger lesson out of this study.

  17. Category 1: Trading Race

    “Trading races” is a very novel idea where one can take on the role of a different person and to experience and empathize being in the skin of another person. However, I am skeptical with the usage of the two words, trade, and race. I am curious to what extent is the definition of race as clear-cut as society makes it to be. I am not even talking about mixed race, but rather, I am interested in how the notion of race overlaps and/or conflicts with one’s cultural identity. We are all too familiar with terms such as “banana” (“white-washed” Asian), where some minority adopts the culture of a majority culture. In that case, the exchange of race of a whitewashed “race” doesn’t make the experience of being Asian any more authentic than being white. Furthermore, how could we “trade” a race? How can we retain the rest of that person’s identity and focus only on his racial part, which we extract and trade? Or do we assume every part of his identity and attribute it to race?

    Category 2: Color Blindness and Interracial Interaction

    This study really warned us of the negative impact of political correctness. Paring up with what we learned about self-control, the more efforts people spend on trying to appear color-blind, the less productive their collaborative work will be, and the less capable they are in interacting with the other race on an equal, respectable basis. It shows the devastating effect of hidden racism, where people use a double language depending on which race they interact with. It creates a vicious cycle when in a certain racial context, one is expected to act in a certain way. There is more and more pressure in conforming to norms, going against which could be punished through ostracism.

    Have we not moved beyond before the Civil Rights Movement time? Is it getting more difficult for a society to be racially equal?

    Category 3: Equal Pay

    Connecting equal pay article with the previous color blindness creates a very interesting thought. “What looks, feels and smells like sexism may not actually be sexism,” the author agues. It reverses common perception of sexism and racism, and argues that undisguised, blatant sexism is not sexism. It tries to give legitimacy to the very inequality, discrimination itself. It is scary to think about if sexism can racism can be justified because of status quo.

    Is the world getting more dismal because even sexism and racism can now be justified, and minority groups are even deprived of the right to protest in the name of liberty?

    • For your first questions, I think it has to do with culture v. race. I’ve heard some discussion also as to what should be the correct thing to say, race v. ethnicity. I agree that the concept of ‘trading’ races is pretty strange and the fact that we take terms like ‘oreo’ and ‘banana’ without blinking is disappointing. How does one truly find their identity, given their race.

      For category 2: I don’t think we are still in the same situation as the Civil Rights Movement. We don’t discriminate EVERYTHING based on color, such as seating, bathrooms, and drinking fountains. However, that being said, I think we still have quite a ways to go before we are anywhere near true equality and I who knows how soon it will happen. I think we are slowly getting towards equality and disagree that society is making it more difficult to be racially equal. We are trying. haha

      As for the Chronicle article, I hardly find that he was doing a good job justifying sexism. In fact, looking through most of the comments, it seemed as if nobody took him seriously. I don’t know if there are actual studies by PhDs on whether what he said is true, but feminism is on the rise (I think) in America. In other countries, women are already treated much better.
      In response to your question though, minority groups seem to be getting more power to protest nowadays rather than what you suggest.

      • I agree with your comments on the rise of feminism. Although it is understandable that women should be treated equally, it will no longer be equal if women are being treated better than men are. This relates back to the post about sexist firms, and equal pay. There will be more discussion on this later on in the Gender and Success group.

  18. I accidentally posted this on the home page yesterday:

    Category 1: Adeline Koh’s Trading Races

    1) I would love to experience this game for myself and see what the effects end up being. I think both sides have valid arguments in the issue of Affirmative Action, and no one really has the “right” answer to this problem. On either end, someone is being discriminated against. I think this is an interesting concept but I would love to learn more about exactly how they assigned roles to people. The website mentioned this briefly, but not all African Americans are going to be for affirmative action, and not all Caucasians are going to be against it. How do they take into account the participants’ race AND their political views? I’d like to know what all the different roles were, especially how they incorporated other races into the game (i.e. Asians, Latinos..where do they fit in?) It will be a great opportunity to actually ask Adeline Koh in class about the specifics of this game and how it accounts for all different racial and economic factors. The experience of having to step into another person’s shoes, however, is definitely an invaluable one.

    2) What factors besides race do you think influence a person’s stance on affirmative action?

    Category 2: Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?

    1) I’ve heard about this study before, and, although the results are predictable, the 50% difference is quite astonishing. I think the study limits itself, however, in only using African sounding names. I’d like to see the same study done for Asian, Latino, or Native American sounding names. My biggest qualm about all of these readings is that they all seem to focus solely on discrimination against or affirmative action for African Americans, when racial effects clearly have a huge impact across all races. I’d be interested in learning whether Asian sounding names are discriminated against as well, or if they are actually a bonus, and if so, in what types of jobs? And for the original study, the “four occupational categories” were sales, administrative support, clerical, and customer services – all of these “categories” essentially encompass the same skills – interpersonal and communication skills. Why didn’t this study do a better job of breaking down industries? Wouldn’t the type of job these applicants are applying for make a big difference in the findings? I’d like to know what the results might be for engineers, doctors, researchers, etc. I want to know to what extent affirmative action counteracts the effects of discrimination based on name, and I think we need to look at studies that include more factors in order to really get a better picture.

    2) Do you think parents should start taking this factor into account when naming their kids? Is it an appropriate sacrifice to give a child a “western sounding” name in order to give him/her a higher chance of success in this country?

    Category 3: Rethink Affirmative Action

    1) I’m tempted to comment on the anti-feminist article, but I’ll save those thoughts for when we actually get to the gender topic a couple of weeks from now. I think this affirmative action article is interesting because the author builds his argument on the assumption that ethnicity does not play a significant role in diversity of thought, and this assumption is not well supported. Perhaps the author, as a freshman, has not had enough experience in classes or activities at Duke yet to have an understanding of the depth of contribution cultural perspectives can have on academic, professional, and personal growth. As a senior and leader of the largest umbrella cultural organization on campus, I have interacted with students from all parts of the world and can say that they have had a huge impact on the way I have viewed every controversial issue on campus. I believe that ethnic and international diversity is absolutely essential to building a rich and multifaceted campus, but the extent of this effect cannot be fully realized unless an individual takes the initiative to integrate themselves in a diverse social and academic environment. Unfortunately, most people at Duke do not do this, and the self-segregation that occurs here is the biggest obstacle we face as a community, and the greatest source of division I have seen in my four years at Duke.

    2) How long do you think self-segregation will occur to the extent that we see today, and at what point do you think our campus or nation can reach full integration?

    • While thanking Group 5 for their readings I would like to echo Mufasa’s comment about the complexity of discrimination impacting people of all races including African Americans. Within the topic of Race, Prejudice and Political Correctness there is much we can learn from the long standing relationship between Duke University and the local community of Durham that is now home to many hispanic families and resettled international refugees. Topics surrounding race and education have been made clearer to me ever since I started tutoring English with Duke GANO. Individuals from Durham and even surrounding cities who have the determination to cross into Duke’s East campus (famous for the circling stone wall) to learn English are inspiring. It is clear to me that higher education needs to progress in order to better serve marginalized communities. I am curious what our class thinks about how massive online education might potentially help break down barriers of race and privilege.

  19. bluedevil4life

    Category 1
    1. Adeline Koh’s Trading Races
    I found this article to be novel and intriguing. I like the concept of incentivizing participants in order for them to more readily take on another identity. I would be interested in seeing how this study takes place. Incentivizing does give students a reason to defend their faction but one has to question whether it is a strong enough incentive to completely change the views and opinions of participants in regard to race and prejudice. Furthermore I enjoy usage of this game in a classroom setting and think it would be even more beneficial if an institution could make this game a semester long class. I think it would definitely broadcast societal issues in regard to race and prejudice and further elucidate some of the implicit factors that come into play with these topics.

    2. Adeline, Can you talk more about the trading races study and the stages it is currently in?
    Category 2
    1. Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?
    I have heard of this study before but this is my first time being exposed to the minutiae of the study. This most fascinating part of the study for me was the part that dealt with the higher-quality resumes Job applicants with “white names” received received 30 percent more callbacks than whites with lower quality resumes however the same was true for only 9 percent of applicants with “black names”. This went against my initial thoughts and this may be due to the setup of the experiment. We know that historically underrepresented groups attend prestigious schools and attain higher-status jobs at lower rated than their white counterparts. This makes it so that in some cases these institutions may have low amounts of these historically underrepresented groups. I was under the impression that because of these situations high achieving applicants that appear to be from historically underrepresented groups (based on if they have “white” or “”black” sounding names) tend to be more salient than high achieving applicants that appear to be from more prominent groups. Unfortunately, my reasoning behind this is that historically underrepresented groups, specifically those that have “black sounding names”, are more likely to be associated with underprivileged backgrounds than those with “white sounding names”. I think, and I could be totally wrong on this that once you get to the top tier of colleges (e.g. Ivy League schools) and top tier employers high-achieving applicants that have “black sounding names” or that appear to be from historically underrepresented are viewed as very attractive to employers because of the rules of scarcity.

    2. Are you familiar with the “Harvard Implicit Association Test”? If so, or even if not what are some ways that you feel that we can eradicate implicit prejudices going on in society?

    Category 3
    1. Rethink affirmative action
    With all due respect to Jed’s perspective, I think he had a slightly misconstrued idea of what affirmative action is. Affirmative action by its nature is not there to fulfill a certain quota of historically underrepresented groups. It is there for high-achieving minorities that may have come from underprivileged backgrounds but surmounted their obstacles to put themselves in a position where they may have similar credentials as a candidate that came from a privileged background. Thus affirmative action is there for applicants that are already high performers. Diversity is more than just “critical thinking” it also has to do with background, culture, diversity of thought, and experience etc. Over my four years at this great institution I have had to opportunity to learn just as much from my classes as I have from interacting with the diverse amounts of people here and building relationships with people on varying levels that have varying perspectives on everything. So it is not there so that admissions officers can be further informed on the profile of their applicant and take a holistic approach on the admissions process. Without affirmative action I would not have been afforded the opportunity to meet such a diverse base of students, staff, and faculty members over my four years at Duke.

    2. Affirmation action like many other things can be approved upon. Where do you think that these improvements can happen and what further steps can be implemented to make diversity more of a priority for not only admissions officers but also employers in the workforce?

  20. Moll Flanders

    Trading Races
    Looking at the factions in this game, I fit squarely in category one- a student highly attuned to the politics of race and advocating race-conscious policies. Yet I do not perceive color-blindness and race-consciousness to be mutually independent. I grew up with a keen understanding of what the color of my skin meant, and if I dare forgot my family was always there to remind of my roots. But I am also fiercely antagonistic of self-segregation. Each individual has a different relationship to their racial or ethnic category and to believe that I will believe that I will be able befriend someone solely on the basis of our common skin color is to reduce my entire race to a singular flattened experience and identity.
    Question: The tension between wanting to seem unprejudiced and actual racism contributed to both the reaction to Duke Lacrosse case and the arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Gates, who was arrested for entering his own home. How do you think we can develop our perspective to avoid both situations in the future?
    Duke Chronicle Article
    I also take forward this argument in the context of Jed Bradshaw’s Chronicle article as I agree with him to some grade on affirmative action. I advocate for policies that recognize that some people by the nature of their race, sexuality, or gender have been at a historical disadvantage. I think Jed’s remark of “lazily accepting the benefits of whatever group [he] was born in,” is wholly insensitive to centuries of white domination that extended until about 50 years ago in this country. But affirmative action doesn’t always benefit those who have been disadvantaged- a poor white boy from Southern Georgia probably had a lot more difficulties to overcome than my private school- going, country club residing black neighbors.
    Question: Do you personally advocate for affirmative action, why our why not?
    Norton et al. Experiment
    The Norton et al. experiment examines an interesting social phenomenon. I’ve witnessed political correctness or incorrectness to different degrees among my friends sometimes to my amusement and often to my dismay. This study only looks at whites and blacks, but from my experiences, other races also engage in color blindness to varying degrees. What I’ve noticed is that people of the same race have no problem identifying others of their own race: an Asian person is more likely to point out the race of another Asian person. But depending on the person, they may be more reluctant to verbally acknowledge other races. It seems though in general non-whites are less reluctant to acknowledge race than whites. I don’t typically avoid recognizing race in social situations, maybe because my own personal identity is very much constructed on my racial identity, and I’m not usually offended when others do. I did get offended however when a close friend introduced me as his ‘Asian’ friend- as if I served to fill of his racial quotas or that our entire interactions had been reduced to an observation of my skin color. What’s also interesting is that white race is implied unless otherwise specified- perhaps assuming the race of the majority is true in every country.
    Question: How can we change our educational system to teach us a more nuanced understanding of race over a superficial political correctness that often wears off in private settings?

  21. Category 1: Trading Races

    I thought that the site and the experiment were very interesting, and I’m curious to see the results of it. Strangely, I feel like I’ve seen several television segments where people are asked to physically “change races” for the day, walking around in Hollywood-grade hair, makeup, and prosthetics in order to experience what it is like to be the other race (I can’t find the segments after doing a quick search, but I believe Oprah has done several such experiments). Regardless, I think that these mini-experiments only teach us so much about race and prejudice, as the physical change does not completely allow participants to embody another race but rather mask their true race. Koh’s project is quite unique in that it seems that participants really delve into the characteristics and values of the character they are given. As many social science experiments have shown us (Stanford Prison Experiment, for example), given someone a role that they can become committed to over a long period of time is quite effective. I imagine that the experiences of Koh’s “Trading Races” participants will teach us a great deal about what it is like to be of a different race or political ideology.

    Question: Like others, I would be extremely interested to hear the current state of the experiment and if any preliminary conclusions have been unveiled as of yet. In addition, I’m curious whether participants bring prior prejudices and biases with them into the experiment, or whether they are fully able to immerse themselves in their new character’s ideology.

    Category 2: Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?

    I found this article to be somewhat shocking, but I must say that I was not overly surprised by the results. I think that, although many of us try to be free of biases, racism, and prejudice, we often find that we make judgements of others subconsciously and unintentionally. I’m not completely sure what the social science research has to say about this fact, but from my observations I’ve found that even the most “non-racist” and “politically correct” person often succumbs to unintentional judgement. The fact that a “black sounding” name can adversely affect an applicant’s ability to secure a job interview is certainly disheartening. I’m curious whether this study could be used as a learning tool for employers who claim that they are “equal opportunity”. If such employers knew that they were making these prejudicial decisions in resume screening, would they perhaps adopt measures to combat this prejudice? (Blind-readings of resumes are one such example of a method that would help avoid racial biases). Or would companies refuse to adopt these measures because they truly believe that minority candidates are less qualified that non-minority candidates? I believe asking companies to adopt new measures would actually tell us a great deal about racial bias and prejudice. So although the results of the study are shocking, I think they can actually be used in further studies to make some progress toward racial equality in the workplace.

    Question: Have similar studies been done with men and women—i.e., creating fake resumes with identical qualifications but different genders (or even perhaps an gender-ambiguous name)? If so, what were the results? If not, what do you think the results of such a study would be?

    Category 3

    I think these two articles from The Chronicle have been widely circulated and commented on, so I will just give my brief reaction to the “Equal pay is anti-feminist” article. I know that the author has received quite a bit of backlash for his comment about women being the “less-productive sex”, but I think that he does make several interesting points to consider. For example, the fact that women pay less for life insurance because they typically live longer deserves some attention. In general, there are many instances where men and women are treated different because of inherent (or so the insurance companies and their statistics claim) differences in the two genders. This is not the only realm of economic society where one gender is treated differently than the other. Mr. Zhang points out wages and life insurance but we also have to think about car insurance (young males pay exorbitantly higher rates than young women) and numerous other economic transactions where an apparent “gender discrimination” may actually just be based on statistics and proof that this transaction actually makes economic sense. Now, I’m not saying that I think qualified women should receive lesser pay than an equally (or lesser) qualified male just because they may leave the workplace early for childrearing, but I do think that we need to consider such disparities in every aspect of economic life if we are going to be fair and rational about it.

    Question: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the claims that Mr. Zhang makes in this article?

    • Hi CE,

      I strongly second your question for Category 2, regarding whether a parallel bias to race exists for gender in hiring call-backs. In fact, I am surprised that the article did not raise this question as well, since the experimenters had collected sufficient data to answer it. Presumably, this means their result was negative for gender bias. But if that was the case, I am incredulous and would like further study into the issue. For instance, does a woman who emphasizes her femininity (in person or through her resume) compromise her chances of getting hired? I am thinking of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, who loses her credibility (through nonetheless finds great professional success) as a result of printing her resumes her pink scented paper! Like you, I also wonder whether de-emphasizing gender (e.g., by gender-neutral names) helps by avoiding bias from both male and female employers.

  22. Buck Mulligan

    Great choices for the readings this week – I really enjoyed them.

    I found Dr. Koh’s study particularly interesting and would be interested to hear some more of the students experiences related to their participation. I also feel it is very difficult to simulate race. In a Rawlsian sense, we might believe society would be better if we could empathize more with others and understand how tom make those who experience discrimination better off. My question is, do we think the system of affirmative action is effective at achieving this? Are there alternatives yet to be implemented?

    This point connects directly to the second category, for which I would like to point to the article “Are Emily and Brendan more Employable that Lakisha and Jamal?” Dr. Ariely has done research in this area and I am interested in hearing more about his experience with blatant versus implicit discrimination. Although he won’t be able to join us for the upcoming class, I am curious what Dr. Koh’s experience is with this as it relates to her work. How can we differentiate between intentional discrimination based on statistical performance and people’s unknown or unacknowledged biases, both of which have proven equally troubling?

    Finally, I’d like to turn to the Chronicle piece as it connects to gender issues. I personally found some of the arguments economically convincing. I think the author could have been more sensitive to his audience. I also certainly don’t feel that women are less valuable in terms of productivity or compensation deserved in the workplace. But, if we eliminate the issue of men and women and look at the argument prima facie, there is reason behind paying for performance. My question is, now that women have an increasing role in the American workforce, especially at the leadership level, how can we put in place measures to ensure they earn equal pay for equal work? It seems the current system isn’t working, but it is not altogether due to sexism.

    • Glad you enjoyed the readings (this is my group’s topic)! I really like how you connected the three readings together in your responses. In response to your comment about the Trading Races game, I agree with you that it is very difficult to simulate race. However, the documentary A Class Divided (included in this week’s readings) shows that it can be very easy to simulate/create discrimination. I’m curious to as how this would play out in Professor Koh’s game.

    • BUCK!

      I like what you said about promoting “Equal pay for equal work.” I think there needs to be a drastic overhaul in workplaces to think about how they can balance promoting a diverse workplace with a meritocracy. I think this requires us to look at the equal employment opportunity commission (EEOC). From the EEOC site:

      The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

      I think that systems like EEOC are important in ensuring that minorities or underrepresented demographics are not discriminated against in the professional workforce, but I agree that there needs to be a shift in public interest toward honoring superior work performance in a meritocratic way.

  23. Adeline Koh’s Trading Races seems like a very interesting way to learn about different races the prejudices that exist and have existed within our culture over time. Sometimes the best way to view somebody else’s perspective is in their shoes, so I think creating a role playing game to force one to live in the time period of a certain character with outside influences, is the only way somebody can actually understand the feelings and emotions one feels towards somebody who is different than themselves.
    The PBS documentary is a classic example of how people (not just children) can be brainwashed into thinking something is right and something is wrong. It is sort of a scary society we live in to know that we are so easily manipulated into thinking a certain way. If higher authority tell us what to think and how to feel, we are no longer living in a free country. I do, however, think that teaching children this lesson at such a young age can be extremely helpful, because making the children feel so bad about themselves definitely helps them remember the way they feel when they are being judged. The most powerful part of the video comes at the end when the children have all grown up and talk about the powerful impact that particular lesson had on their lives. It was life-changing for them and they all immediately understood the evil in prejudice thinking and feeling.
    The last literary section about the the working wages was a very interesting one. It brings up the point of women getting paid equally and how this can actually have a negative impact on the competitiveness of a firm. Both genders being equally paid is of course not behind motives of bigotry, but simply an unconscious pattern which has occurred over many many years. I had never thought about the way the equal pay and “sexist” firms would hurt a company’s ability to compete in the market, but it seems like there is a lot if evidence to prove this point.

    It seems today that people are often being offended by the pettiest comments. Ones that have no intention of negatively targeting a certain crowd, but end up causing a big mess. Would it be fair to teach people how to react to certain prejudice comments rather than teaching them to never hear anything racist come out of someone’s mouth?


    Here is my post again below:
    1) Trading Races:
    I think that Trading Races is a compelling simulation that forces participants to take on different perspectives in a controversial debate over race and prejudice. The fact that the simulation focuses on racial contexts and themes as they relate to student life at the University of Michigan is an effective way of driving home the variety of opinions. I must agree with previous commentary on this blog in that I imagine it is difficult for students to truly separate their own races and identities from the characters that they adopt in this simulation. I wonder whether this game would go over well at Duke or not. I feel that most students would agree that we shouldn’t have to force identities upon one another for us to truly understand each other. I think that understanding each other comes from fostering openness in our culture at Duke. I believe we are doing a much better job with this.

    The term “color blindness” comes up during dialogue about racial differences. How do you think we may promote a culture that allows us to be more color blind and accepting of one another? Aren’t we born color blind? At what age do we start to see people differently?

    2) Color Blindness and Interracial Interaction:
    I think this study reaffirms how uncomfortable people have become over differences in race. The research showed that white participants were comfortable categorizing faces based on race, but when white participants played a political correctness game they were less likely to use race as a descriptor when paired with a black partners. After observing the participants they concluded that the more reluctant white participants were to use race in the presence of black participants, the more unfriendly they appeared. The takeaway shows that strategic efforts to appear color blind have mixed results. I am not surprised by these results. I think that race is a subject that makes people very uncomfortable. The topic of political correctness is something that is very sensitive. The conclusion puts in well in that “the desire to avoid prejudice produces mixed outcomes in social interactions.”

    In the conclusion of this article the researchers suggest that the fact that white participants repeated these patterns shows that we are heading in the right direction toward ameliorating racial bias. This seems like a bold claim. Do you agree with their commentary here?

    3) Rethink Affirmative Action:
    I found Bradshaw’s letter to be an aggressive response to affirmative action I think the solution here is that there simply needs to be more transparency from the University as to how they are promoting affirmative action in the admissions room. Can they prove that a white candidate with the same admissions profile as a minority candidate both have the same shot? What does it whittle down to? Can they prove that reviewing applications is not just a quotas game of stacks organized by race, but rather a more holistic process by which every candidate receives admission on merit? I agree with Bradshaw that we shouldn’t be defined by our race. We shouldn’t be reduced to the (caucasian) (black) (latino) check boxes on the Common Application. For our world to become color blind, these conventions need to be eradicated.

    There is this controversy over “reverse discrimination” not only in admissions rooms but also in the job market. Do you think that white candidates are at a disadvantage when up against minorities for full time jobs?

  25. Trading races seems like a really great way to understand the historical context of an event. I find studying history very difficult (I like math and science) and I think that immersing myself in the context of such an event would better help me remember the events of history as well us understand the emotional aspects and the actual reasons for such events.

    Should colleges incorporate games like Trading Races more often? Or does the fact that the game would take 9 class sessions not allow students to cover more material? Would sacrificing breadth for depth be worth it?

    Color Blindness and Interracial Interaction resonates with me because I’ve always thought about whether or not it is okay to use race as a descriptive factor. In general, I would never specify that someone is white in a description because I think it is assumed, but I would specificy if someone were black.

    Is specifying race ethically wrong?

    Rethink affirmative action
    There are two sides of this coin. On one hand affirmative action allows society to break the cycles that institutions have created that have allowed certain ethnic groups to fall behind. At the same time, though, it also can result in unfairness in that people who are more qualified to attend Duke might not get in because they aren’t disadvantaged. So in some cases it could make sense for racial demographics to be blind on an application, but can also in a way promote equality of opportunity (←this is a HUGE oxymoron).
    What is your take on affirmative action? Does it create fairness by promoting unfairness or is it actually fair?

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