Racism has become an increasing issue within our society. It has been proven to affect the lives of many innocent people. Yet, there is still the assumption out there in the public sphere that racism is a thing of the past. Recently, there have been events all over the world that have spurred debates surrounding the topic on racism. Movements like Black Lives Matter and the migration of the Syrian Refugees have caused a wide range of reactions. These two things for example haven’t been as welcomed into the United States as one would think. There have been many studies done showing that almost everyone has an implicit bias (Implicit. arvard. edu, 2015).
Even though it can be neutral, it still shapes the way we behave in our daily lives, and the choices we make along the way, including our knee-jerk reactions that we don’t even have control over. These days racism is sly, quiet, subtle, and persistent. It is hard to see, especially by those who aren’t directly affected by it. Those people may deny its existence all together. Yet, with this big of an issue, we cannot just ignore the problem, it is essential to our social sphere to accept we have an implicit bias and learn from it. In my research I want to look deeper into our implicit bias.
I want to look at how it could possibly affect our fear response in certain situations. Fear is a very motivating emotion, one that almost everyone has experienced. It can make you do things you never thought you could do, because usually fear is activated when you are in a dire situation. Yet, sometimes our biases can place us in bad situations we think we are in, but we actually aren’t. Sometimes our biases make us react in a way we normally don’t think we would react. If we are fearful of the innocent, fearful or violent towards others due to their race, we need to be aware of that condition within ourselves.
This can be applied to many different types of jobs you may hold such as a police officer, a solider, an emergency room doctor, a juror etc. There are many things we do in our lives that greatly impact the life of another. If we inherently have a bias towards another person due to their race, and it is intensified in stressful, fearful, and violent situations we need to make sure we are prepared to deal with the consequences, by being aware that this fearful bias exists in the first place. I plan on using an EEG to analyze the brain waves in the first second of thought after an image is shown to the participant.
These images will be of different people, of different socially constructed races, in different situational poses. For example there will be men dressed as soldiers with a gun, each picture will be of a different man dressed in the same attire, in the same pose. The participant will be asked to choose if this is a positive, neutral, or negative image. While they are looking through the images I will be recording their brain activity. I will also have them take a version of an implicit bias test or a survey on how they feel about their bias after the section of EEG recording and image selections.
The reason I will analyze the first second of the thought process is because I want to see what the brain automatically does without conscious decision making, meaning before the brain waves reach the frontal lobe after the image is shown. Pretty much it is another way to get an implicit bias result. Meaning, the participant cannot make a conscious decision, only a truthful one will be seen. This study is important because there are many choices in life that we have to make and a lot of them involve other people.
Even though we may not know every person we make a decision for, it still impacts his or her lives. If we are fearful of a group of people due to their race, and no other reason then that (and the stereotypes most likely that go along with them) then we have to be aware that some of the choices we make aren’t the fairest ones. They may not be the most moral choices either. If we are aware of our biases, especially ones that interfere with our quick decision-making, then maybe we can slowly get better and change the way we look at people as a whole.
Personally I care the most about equality (fairness), honesty and altruism. All of which tie into the study I plan to conduct. Equality is very important because we are all biologically humans and we all deserve to be treated equally. It is only because of social norms, societal constraints and general ignorance that inequality has gone on for so long. Which leads me into my next value, honesty. Honesty is one of those things that are very hard to find and very hard to admit. The truth hurts sometimes and most just won’t admit when there are issues.
We like to ignore problems that don’t directly affect us, or we deny that something is real because maybe it is disturbing that it is real, for example climate change. Yet, in order to fix things and make the world a better place we have to be honest and accept the truth. Altruism is also very important to me. I consider myself an altruistic person, but most of all I find that altruistic behaviors along with the ideas of equality and honesty make up for a moral person or society. Willing to help one another without the expectance of something in return, is something we all need every once in a while.
It shows kindness, sacrifice, and empathy. These things are necessary for a person to treat others as their equals as well as understanding respect for one another. All of these values I hold dear fit well within a smooth running society. Now, when looking at the research I wish to conduct I see how there could be some ethical implications within my study. Three ethical issues I was able to come up with were conflict of conscience, use of humans in scientific research and the responsibility of scientists when conducting research (Macrina, 2014).
Conflict of conscience could possible be argued depending on what my motives are for this study and how people react to what I want to study. There are ways that this research could be used for wrong reasons and that is a good reason for others to oppose my work. Yet, due to my values and beliefs I am not doing this study for any other reason then to bring out the truth in all of us so we are able to acknowledge what goes on in our minds when making quick decisions. The second issue I saw was the use of humans in scientific research.
You always have to be careful when you have people participating in your study. You have to think about the risks to them and what the benefits are in participating in your study. Even if someone who thinks racism doesn’t exist or someone who doesn’t think they are racist finds out it does exist and that they may be a little racist doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits to knowing that information. While it may cause slight (if any) psychological harm, it also brings awareness, something that people can have insight to when they are analyzing the next situation they find themselves in.
It is important for us to see what is truly there so we can fix what needs to be fixed instead of just ignoring it. And the last ethical issue I saw with my project was the possible irresponsibility of scientists. Scientists have a responsibility to the public to give them accurate, meaningful data. Some could argue that knowing this information about people is worthless, or that it has more negative impacts then positive, but I beg to differ.
People are affected everyday by decisions people make. Whether it is doctors giving more pain medicine to white children over African American children (Kirwaninstitute. osu. edu, 2015). Whether it is sport referees calling more fouls on players of a different race then themselves (Marsh, Mendoza-Denton & Smith, 2010). Whether it is Jurors placing harsher sentences on Latin Americans and African Americans, because there is a stereotype of them being more violent and more likely to be criminals.
Whether it is a job given to a white man over a black man just because of skin color or a Middle Eastern woman being pulled aside at the TSA just because she is Middle Eastern, all of these are damaging to the victims of racism. Even though you may not see it everyday, if you look hard enough the subtleness of racism is very easy to see. Being able to pinpoint that fear intensifies our already bias judgments, will help us move forward and combat racism once and for all.