I’m re-reading Mistakes Were Made, by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. That’s the one about self-serving bias aka cognitive dissonance, and all the exciting ways it plays out.
One item –
…if we have enslaved members of another group, deprived them of decent education or jobs, kept them from encroaching on our professional turfs, or denied them their human rights, then we evoke stereotypes about them to justify our actions. [p 60]
Thunk. Yes we do, don’t we. Consider racism in America. Doesn’t that just exactly describe our history?
- Grudging emancipation, with compensation for the slaveholders and penury for the former slaves
- Restoration of slavery in all but name through Jim Crow laws
- Segregation throughout the country, with attendant underfunded schools and infrastructure
- Barring from most decent jobs throughout the country
So how do we make ourselves feel Okay in the face of all that? How do we go on seeing ourselves as okay people in a pretty good country? We evoke stereotypes to justify our actions.
It’s not just that racism leads to bad treatment, it’s also that bad treatment leads to racism. It’s a horrible loop, and it’s taking us way too long to get the hell out of it.