Books have been a part of most of my life; I guess my own life is just too boring to get by. Once I was able to pick up a book and read it for myself, I started with the fantastic world of wizardry that is Harry Potter, having moved too many times for how old I was, I had few real world friends, but I learned how real written characters can become to someone, as the characters became to me.
While still in no condition to start making my own decisions for what to read, the next book I picked off of my brothers shelf was Animorphs, which introduced me in the worst possible way to the geek community; I still can’t find anyone else, even among the plethora of convention goers I can meet daily, who loved the story and characters as much as I did, or even anyone that likes it at all, which makes little sense to me, as they were so real.
I have always used books to get away from my own life, to make friends when I didn’t live anywhere consistently enough to make flesh and blood friends, to feel the rush and power that comes from reading something that sounds so real, even though it is performed by a lowly character against all odds. After running out of books at home I hadn’t read, and finally becoming somewhat independent in my readings, I picked up a random book entirely because its cover looked cool; it was called “Tomorrow When the War Began.”
The story covers Australian teenagers in World War III, fighting with all they had to make their township of Wirrawee free once more from the invaders. What caught me the most off guard was how intensely the feelings are expressed… The apprehension of not knowing where loved ones are or if they even still are; the anxiety coming from not knowing what to do in situations well above what your capacity is expected to be; not knowing if the one fighting for life beside you will die, and if that will be your fault; the knowledge that if those fighting with you were gone there would be no one else to befriend, or to be human with. The raw form in which these emotions were delivered, was just right to strike home.
It is sad that fiction, and someone else’s mind can influence my lifestyle so much, but it opened my mind to a new train of thought, enough to make my social life take a backflip from trying to be the center of attention in a dull world, to watching others dull world and seeing what I could do to change them.
Revision: Problematizing: Little Red
I was raised in Brazil, and being realistic, racial profiling exists everywhere, regardless of how common a race may be. But small things do change. Some jokes need to be harsher in Brazil to become relevant. While here a single word or look can strike home. Not to say the words or looks change their meaning from place to place, but just the fact that they are viewed differently, but are still used, can change the effect they have on people.
I was raised by parents who don’t believe any one person should be the sole person of interest in a group, I’ve learned to follow the law to keep myself safe; make sure the law is kept properly not just in letter, but in spirit as well; to stand up for any suffering from injustice and to make good use of my time, always serving a purpose and never cheating on it… However, I am a 6’5’’ dark skinned broad shouldered man.
One morning, walking to work on a day considerably bright for winter, trudging through the iced over snow, already on the right side of the road so I didn’t have to risk jay walking on unplowed ice, shortly after passing the school area, a small red coat turns the corner just ahead of me and raises her head, the child looked like a fairytale personified, pale skin nearly matching the snow, a few freckles sprinkled across, deep hazel eyes that made it seem like she had just seen something entirely new that she couldn’t quite place as right or wrong, and shoulder length auburn hair that had to match leaves on the perfect transition from summer to fall.
She crossed the ice packed, unplowed street, not glancing twice. I thought nothing of it until I reached the next corner and glanced back before crossing the road, only to see her crossing back to the side we were both originally on, trudging once more through the ice packed, unplowed street. With her size the snow must have been at her knees, but that must not have been worse than the possible outcome of the alternative…
Stranger danger is a thing, and a thing I support fully. Children need to learn quickly what things are not OK, and why. But why was the appearance of me not OK? Would Little Red have crossed the ice packed street regardless of it being me or another man? Are there no tall and robust men in her family and her family’s social circle? Are there no men with darker skin than her own, snow white? Or was it a choice of her family and their social circle to simply not engage in relations with the colored? What if Little Red was hurt by someone who resembled me and this has nothing to do with her family’s nurturing?
Little Red’s reaction to me is enough to make you wonder if her growing process will make it better or worse and how deeply that will be ingrained into her Self. Will a possible bad experience make it worse? Or is she already set in those ways and thoughts? Will she digress from her current social norm and be the first to mingle with the dirt?
Most of what will become of this facet of Little Red’s life will be decided by fate, but it starts somewhere… When asking what leads this to happen, you will get interesting information on children developing the ability to distinguish races, and how their parents affect it once they do.
Paul Quinn from the University of Delaware conducted research on the matter, and had interesting findings:
At 3 months of age, the Caucasian infants we studied showed a looking-time preference for Caucasian faces, and when we collaborated with researchers in China, we found the same preference among Asian infants for Asian faces. Also at 3 months, infants had the ability to tell apart different faces within their own race as well as within other racial groups, but by 9 months, they had lost that ability for races other than their own.
It seems that, as time goes on during the infancy period, and we experience some categories more frequently than others, we begin to process those categories differentially.
After concluding that it was not an innate preference of one race over another, Quinn decided to request that the parents of Caucasian babies to read books to their children, from the age of 6 months forward, that featured Asian faces and within 2-3 weeks the children were able to distinguish one Asian face from another once more. This confirms that it was nothing but a lack of familiarity that led the infants to not recognize other-race faces.
But what happens when this lack of familiarity is led further in their lives? Quinn adds:
One interesting question is what the relationship might be between this early categorizing of faces and the stereotyping and prejudice that can exist in children as young as 4 years of age, and, how transient or permanent are the training effects? When exposure to other-race faces stops, infants’ other-race face recognition abilities may eventually regress to chance levels.
The problem isn’t innate, children are born recognizing all races the same way, but they are raised and taught differently, Little Red didn’t need to see me as me to be scared enough to cross the ice packed street, she might’ve not been able to tell the difference if I was another black man at all. All she needed to see was a race that her family had no interaction with. And that was enough for her to feel scared and threatened.
Racial discrimination isn’t hard to find, but the main issue is the cause. You cannot treat someone’s prejudice by sending them to jail for a couple of months when they offend someone and are held accountable for it, not when they have grown with this prejudice since they were infants. Parents and caregivers need to allow and strive for more socialization with other races, it isn’t a requirement to have someone from every other race at your home 24/7, but it may be the difference from your child fearing someone entirely harmless simply because they don’t know better.
Revision: Exploratory Research Paper: Little Red
I am a 6’4’’ Afro-American male, and my life experiences have led to an interest in how that may be affecting me, and if this effect is positive or negative, and if there was any reason for it. Among my more recent experiences where race may be a relevant factor is the occasion where a ginger female child preferred to cross a heavily snow packed street, and then cross it back, instead of crossing me on the same side of the road (Silva, 1). This specific event was the difference between the passive curiosity of how my race may affect the outcome of my day, and doing some research to find out.
My first attempt at finding an answer led me to an interview looking to understand a study being performed by Paul C. Quinn, a professor of psychology at the University of Delaware. The study tested infants from 3-9 months of age, and how well they could recognize same-race faces as well as other-race faces, comparing the results to see if there was any preference. Professor Quinn states, “It seems that, as time goes on during the infancy period, and we experience some categories more frequently than others, we begin to process those categories differentially (Ann Manser, 1).” It is worth note, that the study found the same results in the recognition ability when supressing actual facial colors, leaving only facial features such as nose format, eye slant and mouth shape as the factors to be tested with and recognized.
The article was exactly what I was looking for, leading me to tested factual data of a possible reason why my race might affect my daily life, so I went to the source. Besides discovering how the study was conducted specifically and the sample size, the result didn’t change from what I previously understood, it still concluded that infants started with the ability to recognize same-race and other-race faces equally, but over time, this ability would slowly wither down to a point where they had a clear preference to own-race faces regardless of familiarity with the specific face (Paul C. Quinn, 643).
Here I have confirmation that it wasn’t in the childs nature to avoid me with my size or race, but, more likely that this avoidance and potential fear was likely lost over time. Understanding that there are extremists, they are qualified as extremists for being the exception, the rarity, so, this child likely wasn’t raised to hate or fear other races outright, but that still makes me wonder where the fear came from, when I had done nothing to give it a cause?
The article did however, lead me to where Prof. Quinn acquired the interest for the topic, which was another study performed by Sandy Sangrigoli, a PhD in psychology from France.
The study by Sandy Sangrigoli was more in depth and thorough, but specific only to 3-month old infants, testing their ability to recognize same-race and other-race faces with or without time to familiarize themselves, and concluded that the infants had the ability to recognize same-race faces slightly better when a very short amount of time was given to familiarize, but had the same chance of recognizing same-race or other-race faces when more time was given. (Sangrigoli, 3-month-old 1224).
At this point, we have confirmed that infants have no preference of race, but lose that ability over time. Both studies share the fact that all infants tested had statements from their parents claiming that they had next to no contact with the other-race faces tested, besides the random passing on the street (1221). Looking to find out more information on the process of infants losing the ability to recognize other-race faces as well as their own, I found that Sandy Sangrigoli is somewhat of an expert in the field, and had performed a prior study, testing infants ages 3-5 looking to test the Other-Race Effect, or the ability to recognize other-race faces as well as own-race faces (1221).
This prior study of Sangrigoli’s was performed on 3-5 year old infats, looking to test their ability to recognize same-race faces and compare that to their recognition of other-race faces, they tested with caucasian children, once more with statements from their parents claiming little to no contact with other-race people (the other race tested was Asian). The conclusion was that though they had the ability to recognize both races equally when upright and without any hinderances, when the images were placed upside-down, they lost the ability to recognize other-race faces, indicating that the infants were selective on which faces they cared about enough to recognize when hindered (Sangrigoli, non-native-effects 83).
As we move forward with the studies in the timeline of an infants life, the one common factor in them all is their lack of contact with the other-race faces tested. I don’t see a need to continue on much further, the child that avoided me was not too much older than 5, and likely didn’t change much from that age, being still submitted to the same lifestyle her parents had chosen for her since she was a newborn.
This information does shed more light on why she may have avoided me, or potentially feared me, though it doesn’t answer it outright. I notice, however, that the term fear may be more appropriate, and it connects many prior memories, and a point that is embedded those that have looked into the after effects of some globally significant events, such as 9-11.
9-11 is a date, and a date that everyone in the USA and still a large amount of foreigners can recognize almost immediately, knowing exactly what I am referring to, what it was, and at least some of the effects of it. For the sake of clarity, on the 11th of September of 2001, 4 passenger airliners were hijacked by a terrorist organization named al-Qaeda, and then flown into symbols of the power of the USA, with the most-well known being the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing thousands. While this was happening, we the viewers had very little information on why it had happened, or who had done it, the one thing we knew almost for sure, was that it was a middle eastern organization, and based on messages prior and shortly after, they also claimed to represent the Islamic nation, and that was all that we heard. However, what was missed was that they were an extremist group, and not a sanctioned representation of the nation.
The effect, relevant to my point, of the 9-11 attack was rampant discrimination and terrorism directed towards all middle-easterners, with disregard to where specifically they were from or even if they shared the same religion as the extremist group. This led to multiple deaths as well as general mistreating of any with similarities to the extremists, even if irrelevant similarities (Khan). The point that I intend to make by comparing this to infants simply learning to prefer faces similar to the ones they see on a daily basis is that we, as humans, fear what we don’t know.
Studies have tested and confirmed that when we don’t know what might happen, depending on how much will be based on this change, the more we lean towards the extremist fear (Brown, 339). This fear will lead us towards the fight or flight response, where in our daily lives means no more than moving forward or halting in your progress, when this response is triggered on a global scale, and what you fear for is your liberty or rights that you have lived with, your response will not be so mild, it will be the difference of shooting someone for what later becomes an illogical reason, or moving forward acting as if nothing had happened and there is nothing you can do about it.
A small girl moving out of her way to avoid me, and after-effects of 9-11 are different sides of a similar fear, with 9-11 clearly being the extreme case, and the child avoiding me being next to nothing in comparison. However, both are based on the fear of what you don’t know. The child avoiding me was her choosing flight instead of fight, which makes clear sense, seeing as she couldn’t have been more than 4ft tall and I am not only more than 2ft taller, but also large in stature, my worry then becomes, what if I were the smaller one? Would the threat of me be gone, or would the response change from flight to fight?