As with many things…

As with many things…

Studies show that motivation contributes to how successful a person will be at keeping their prejudices in check. According to Jeni Kubota, if you deeply feel, “I’m a person who believes in fairness and equity,” and “It’s part of who I am at my core,” this internal motivation can help lead you to eliminate biases. But if a person’s desire to not be prejudiced stems from the feeling that “other people tell me that’s bad,” Kubota said, those external motivations are not usually enough to curtail or control prejudice. Without that internal motivation driving them, even people who actively try to be less biased will most likely fail.

You have to want to change, and change for the right reasons. Very interesting article.

h/t Mari Thomas

Can a White Supremacist Learn Not to Hate?

What neuroscience tells us about the persistence of hatred Photographs by Jeffery Salter/Redux Driving around the part of Fresno, California, where Shannon Brown spent much of her life feels a bit like entering an alternate, more insular version of America, something out of an earlier time.

This entry was posted in Fighting Bigotry. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to As with many things…

  1. John Wehrle says:

    Jeni Kubota’s statements remind me so much of virtue ethics that it is freaking uncanny. Basically everything she says (also Calvin Lai and Peter Simi) in this article is a direct application or principle of virtue ethics.

    “You cannot manufacture meaningful experiences for others, and you cannot force someone else to feel a strong motivation to change.” This could be copy/pasted into an old lecture of mine on virtue ethics.

    And this:

    However, according to research by Peter Simi, a sociologist at Chapman University in Orange County, California, most former white supremacists do not experience a sudden change of heart. In fact, moral reasons fall to the bottom of the list. Instead, as was the case with Shannon Brown, the decision to leave a hate group is almost always driven by a personal stimulus: a social or family feud, a divorce, an abusive relationship, a split between rival factions, a public shaming, a run-in with the legal system. The choice is rarely brought on by empathy for people they have been conditioned to despise. “We call it ‘defaulting back to the mean,’” Simi said.

    Because virtues and vices are deeply ingrained habits. They can take lifetimes to change. And, like above, they can’t be taught like math or science or horticulture. We have to start with the moral condition of our own character and build from there. If that condition is being a white supremacist then we can’t just pick up and shift immediately to universal love and dignity. That’s just not how it works.

    And this:

    Hate and racism become part of their core identity, Simi said, and for many who leave hate behind socially, abandoning it psychologically is a much harder process. Simi calls this the “hangover effect.” Hatred has an insidious way of hanging on, never quite disappearing, even for the ones who want to wish it away the most.

    Because our virtues and vices, once ingrained, constitute core pieces of our personal identity. To change means literally becoming a different person. But we can’t swap out our brains. So, like Theseus’s ship, the replacement has to be a long and careful and concerted effort.

    And all of the failures of the quick-fix solutions only corroborate the virtue ethical picture:

    The problem is “they only work for a little bit”—the same way the subjects in Calvin Lai’s experiment were only able to dampen their biases temporarily. “Then you go back out in the real world, you get reinfected with these associations, and any cognitive intervention that you did diminishes over time,” Kubota said.

    Right, because one of the basic requirements of directing a change in your character (or reinforcing a current character trait) is choosing your relationships, to pick your friendships and other close relationships very carefully. Because these relationships directly shape the attitudes and actions you practice. And practice becomes habit and habit becomes you.


    Hm, maybe I shouldn’t have just dropped all of this on your thread. I kind of gushed all over the place here.

  2. I’d like to point everyone who ever says some version of “But we should be nice to the Nazis, because maybe they will change their mind!” or points to the painstaking work of black men de-brainwashing klan members to this piece.
    Yes, it’s possible. But it’s not likely. Bringing legal, economic, and social sanctions to bear is what needs to happen en masse and when marginalized and targeted populations are safe from Nazis THEN we can talk about “changing hearts and minds” on a 1:1 basis.

  3. Cindy Brown says:

    Yes. Make laws and protections clear and unambiguous first. We’ve a long way to go on that; the entire nation’s police departments probably need to be disbanded and re-made at this point.

  4. I don’t think there’s any “probably” about it. The ingrained racism is too deeply entrenched in the US police departments to do anything else and expect it to work.

  5. John Wehrle says:

    I mean, we know from the science where to start: Instead, as was the case with Shannon Brown, the decision to leave a hate group is almost always driven by a personal stimulus: a social or family feud, a divorce, an abusive relationship, a split between rival factions, a public shaming, a run-in with the legal system.

  6. Jim Douglas says:

    The extremely rare people who manage to completely renounce hate can do good work, but the Canadian government is skeptical; they ordered this guy deported back to the UK: – Chilliwack anti-racism advocate ordered deported back to U.K. over his racist past