A Forest through the Trees
Recently, I read an article by John Metta titled “It’s Not About Race!”. The article primarily discusses how Western-European culture has alienated other cultural characteristics and has normalized white perceptions which lead to the inequality of “outsiders” (such as African Americans) within the United States of America. Although I do believe that the concept of cultural normalcy, and specifically Northern America’s cultural tenets, coincides with fear, ignorance, and “-isms”, I do not agree that this substantiates the disregard for logical appeals in regards to solving the issue of discrimination and prejudice.
It is usually interesting to observe the knee-jerk reactions that occur in social media comment sections, particularly pertaining to social and political issues. With the mentality of many individuals stripped down to a bare line of text, we can see how closely sociology plays into the interactions of humans. Intricate discussions such as prejudice in these cases always seem to boil down to rudimentary behaviors that help reinforce an “us versus them” mentality. More so, the culmination of group polarization and groupthink leads many to a radical opinion that usually does not help to touch upon the “right” answer. To put it bluntly, it seems as though North American society is more compelled to “thumb up” a comment rather than add nuance to a discussion.
So how does this tie into solving society’s issues?
Certainly, this method of reasoning eliminates possibilities, stagnates change, and intensifies polarized arguments. Thus, the ability of our society to deliberate and undertake positive change is severely stunted. Emotional responses, without the deliberateness and prudence of rationality, is ultimately a primary cause of the misinformed and intolerant population we find in the United States today.
As it pertains to Metta’s article, this is the quote I specifically have disagreement with
“This is why I sat in a discussion group on race and was angry that a white man was telling me we should “rise above emotions” and “get to the heart of the matter” by talking about race intellectually and avoiding emotions.
Why do we need to center a discussion about racism in the white cultural experience? Why do we need to communicate using Western cultural norms?”
What I found particularly disheartening is his attachment of rationality to the “white cultural experience”. Barring the context of his individual discussion, validity and rationale should aim to achieve a higher clarity in relation to intricate problems, and many of these complex problems can not be unwound without an objective to seek a higher cause. Just as with many discussions on social media, emotion (without cogitation) leads many individuals to reach divisive and impulsive conclusions based on partiality and shallow analysis of increasingly perplex problems.
Conjointly, this may lead one to consider how polarized arguments affect nuance and the diversity of opinion expressed in social discussions. As related by David G. Meyers in his peer-reviewed article “The Polarizing Effect of Group Discussion”, group discussion exhibits a “group-polarization” phenomena in which post-group responses become much more “extreme” and “risk-prone” and enhances the initially dominant point of view. As could also be related to his research, both preconceived notions and bias are only emphasized by group analysis, and group discussion leads groups to be inclined to extreme viewpoints. Thus, social and group discussion could be though to limit moderate and neutral opinions which could restrict diverse thought and commentary.
It is especially dangerous to limit the diversity of opinion within a social discussion, specifically because the practice restricts possibilities (which again reinforces groups polarization). However, nuance and individual analysis seem to be of immense help to developing clearer perspectives on a variety of topics. As related by Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the inclusion of diversity can lead to particularly better decisions in group settings because of the stress created by new ideas and opinion. Without these new ideas and opinions, it can lead many group members to become complacent with understanding intricate problems and aiming to improve the social issue itself and instead become comfortable and defensive of the viewpoint in which they have attained (just as the dismissive thumbs-up and heart does as it suffuses its way throughout the internet).
What does this have to do with the importance of rationality and intelligent discussion?
As a consequence of the impact of nuance on social discussion and improvement, individual and objective examination leads one to create practical and distinct opinions that can help to improve social commentary on a variety of schismatic social topics, thus leading us to have better social ideologies based on knowledge and a comprehensive understanding of the issues involved. Intrinsically, emotion is flawed and corrupted by bias, societal, and environmental factors. And as a consequence, the only way to truly improve social injustices is by aiming to increase logical substance and insightful perceptions and rather using our emotion as a point of inquisition instead of the answer. As related in Toure’s book Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness, just as with blackness, a diversity in ideals and perception can be positive to a community as a whole.